Since the 2022 Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Georgian authorities, who have maintained ties with Moscow, have faced the country’s biggest street protests in a decade and deteriorating relations with Western partners. Georgia officially still seeks to join the EU but has a poor record on the domestic reforms required. Meanwhile, although the situation is overall comparatively stable, occasional incidents continue in and along the lines of separation with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Many of these incidents involve Russian troops, which maintain a presence in these two breakaway regions that Moscow recognised as independent in the wake of its war against Georgia in 2008. Crisis Group closely monitors developments in the Georgian conflict zones and provides recommendations for sustaining diplomacy, keeping the existing negotiation format functioning, shaping long-term policies to support reconciliation and increasing stability.
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.
European Commission recommended Georgia be granted long-awaited candidate status; Russian border guards killed Georgian civilian in breakaway South Ossetia.
European Commission recommended EU candidacy status for Georgia. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen 8 Nov announced that “Commission recommends that the (European) Council grants Georgia the status of a candidate country on the understanding that certain reforms steps are taken”; European Council will take formal decision in Dec 2023. Both PM Garibashvili and President Zourabichvili welcomed decision as thousands took to streets of capital Tbilisi to voice support for EU membership. Head of EU Delegation to Georgia, Paweł Herczyński, same day congratulated country but noted that candidate status is contingent on “fulfilling important steps”, including need to align Georgia’s foreign policy on Russia with EU.
Russian border guards killed Georgian civilian in South Ossetia. Russian troops 6 Nov shot dead Georgian civilian Tamaz Ginturi and detained another near line that separates breakaway South Ossetia from Georgia proper; de facto South Ossetian officials next day published statement claiming civilians had “illegally crossed” into breakaway region, “displayed an extreme level of aggression” and that Ginturi was killed “during the measures taken to detain the violators”. EU Monitoring Mission 6 Nov assembled officials from Georgia, Russia and breakaway South Ossetia, next day announced increased presence along separation line; de facto officials 9 Nov released second civilian.
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.
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