Georgia Marks Eighth Anniversary of Five-Day War with Russia

TBILISI – Georgia marks the eighth anniversary of the country’s brief August 2008 war with Russia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

The brief but intense five-day war killed hundreds and left thousands driven from their homes, as Russia’s invasion force came within an hour’s drive of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi.

According to official government records, 412 Georgian citizens, including 228 civilians, 170 military and 14 police personnel were killed in the war. The war also left one Dutch and two Georgian journalists dead.

Since the war, August 8 - the day when Russia officially declared war on Georgia – has been marked by several sombre commemorative events, including a wreath-laying ceremony at a Mukhatgverdi military cemetery on the outskirts of Tbilisi.

Relations between the two countries plummeted to an all-time low after Russian tanks rolled into the heart of Georgia. Former President Mikheil Saakashvili sparked the outbreak of hostilities after he ordered a disastrous attack on South Ossetia’s separatist capital Tskhinvali. After days of intense fighting, a ceasefire brokered by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy brought the war to a close.

Related Coverage: S.Ossetians to Temporarily Close Checkpoints Marking War Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin cemented his control over the breakaway region by later recognizing South Ossetia and Georgia’s other Russian-backed separatist region as independent states.

Since that time formal relations between Georgia and Russia have been frozen, with Tbilisi insisting that the status quo will remain until Russia ends its support for the separatist governments.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on July 22, during his speech at an annual youth forum on the Klyazma River in Russia’s central Vladimir Region, said Georgia should be the first to make a move towards re-establishing diplomatic ties between the two countries as Georgia was first responsible for cutting formal relations between Moscow and Tbilisi.

"The Georgian leadership (unilaterally) severed diplomatic ties with Russia under Saakashvili’s presidency. This situation can only be improved by a restoration relations initiated by the Georgian side,” Lavrov said.

Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a statement on August 7, emphasized that Russia has continued its illegal occupation of whole regions of a sovereign state and continues to violate international law as well as the commitments of a Ceasefire Agreement signed on August 12, 2008.

“Fortifying the occupation line with razor and barbed wire fences and the so-called “border” signs became a standard practice. These destructive actions are exacerbated by the abduction and illegal detentions of the Georgian citizens. Hundreds of thousands of IDPs and refugees have been still denied the right to a safe return to their original place of residence. The remaining population in the occupied regions suffers from permanent ethnic discrimination,” the statement reads.

Georgia’s Foreign Ministry on Monday called on the international community to maintain their effort in responding to finding a permanent, peaceful resolution to the separatist conflicts in Georgia.

By Tamar Svanidze
Edited by Nicholas Waller

Photo: Prime Minister's Press Office

08 August 2016 12:02