This video gathers testimonies from people living along the South Ossetia-Georgia line of separation, where Russian militarisation of the boundary has left communities divided.
Tense political atmosphere prevailed as Georgia marked 15th anniversary of 2008 war with Russia; former Russian president warned Moscow could annex breakaway regions.
15th anniversary of Russia-Georgia 2008 war provoked fierce debate. Foreign Ministry 7 Aug called on Russia to withdraw its troops from Georgian territory on occasion of 15th anniversary of Russian-Georgian war. Opposing narratives of conflict, meanwhile, dominated anniversary. Notably, PM Garibashvili 8 Aug blamed former govt of jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili for war that “could have been avoided”; move followed chairman of main opposition party United National Movement day before criticising ruling Georgian Dream for allowing Russia to pursue its goals even after war ended. EU and U.S. 7 Aug condemned Moscow’s invasion, while Russian officials sought to shift blame onto NATO; notably, deputy Head of Russian Security Council and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev 8 Aug claimed “the U.S. and its vassals” had waged proxy war in Georgia. Breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia 7 Aug praised Russian “aid” in 2008.
Former Russian president threatened to annex breakaways. Ahead of 15th anniversary of Russia recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia’s independence on 25 Aug, Medvedev 23 Aug published article in Argumenty i Fakty newspaper blaming NATO for escalating tensions over Georgia by discussing country’s potential membership to alliance. He concluded by threatening to annex breakaways “if there are good reasons”; Tbilisi same day condemned comments.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Elissa Jobson talk with Tbilisi-based journalist Joshua Kucera and Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for the South Caucasus Olesya Vartanyan about the March protests in Georgia and what they might spell for the political future of the country.
Russia’s war on Ukraine has all but stopped Moscow’s efforts to fence off the line that separates breakaway South Ossetia from Georgia proper. Conflict parties should use this lull to ease the suffering this decade-long process has inflicted on people living on both sides.
Georgia, a former Soviet republic that suffered its own Russian invasion in 2008 and Moscow’s destabilising support for its breakaway regions, is treading carefully on the war in Ukraine, fearing that if it upsets the Kremlin, it may be left to face the consequences alone.
As elections draw near, increased tension at the line of separation with South Ossetia has helped put the future of normalisation with Russia in doubt. But whoever wins at the polls should not abandon dialogue, but rather build on it to frankly discuss these problems.
In this testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Crisis Group expert Olesya Vartanyan analyses the conflict dynamics in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the breakaway territories from Georgia recognised as independent by Russia, and explains how Washington can promote stability there.
This summer’s protests in Georgia led to changes to the country’s electoral system. But the country’s new Prime Minister, Giorgi Gakharia, is a man protesters wanted ousted from the last government, in which he led the Interior Ministry. In this interview with World Politics Review, Europe & Central Asia Program Director Olga Oliker and Analyst for EU Eastern Neighbourhood Olesya Vartanyan consider what Gakharia’s tenure will bring, and how the parliamentary elections next year might play out in this atmosphere.
Informal trade is increasing between Georgia and the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and between Abkhazia and countries outside the region. Trade alone cannot transform the parties’ core political differences. But talks among them on mutually beneficial commerce could open lines of communication long cemented shut.
Renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine is quickly turning into a litmus test of Russia’s intentions in backing Ukrainian separatist rebels, and the real willingness of the West, in particular the United States, to support Kyiv. Fears over Washington’s wavering may also cause positions to harden in the protracted conflicts in Europe’s East, most immediately in Georgia.
Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.