Occupied territories of Georgia

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Russian-occupied territories are shown in red. Georgian Administrative divisions are outlined in black.

Occupied territories of Georgia (also known as Russian-occupied territories) are the territories which have been designated as occupied territories by the Government of Georgia and a major part of international community. Currently the designation refers to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Twenty percent of Georgia's internationally recognized territory is under Russian military occupation.

After the Russo-Georgian War Russian military bases were established in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia does not allow the European Union Monitoring Mission monitors to enter South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russian troops started the process of demarcation near South Ossetia-Georgia administrative boundary line. The process is also known as "borderization" and involves gradually advancing the occupation line inside Georgia to enlarge the Russian-held territory.

The Georgian law on occupied territories was adopted in 2008. It prohibits entry into Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the Russian side. Such entry is prosecutable by the Georgian authorities. The Georgian law also prohibits any economic activity.

Russia claims that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are "independent states". Many countries and international organizations have condemned the Russian military presence in the Georgian regions and the "borderization".

History[edit]

After the Russo-Georgian War, on 26 August 2008, the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed decrees recognising the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as sovereign states.[1] Russia established diplomatic relations with both Abkhazia and South Ossetia.[2] Russian troops were placed in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that a military presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia was necessary to prevent Georgia from regaining control.[3][4] Russian security forces were deployed along the demarcation lines with Georgia.[5][6]

The Georgian parliament unanimously passed a resolution on 28 August 2008 formally declaring Abkhazia and South Ossetia Russian-occupied territories, and calling Russian troops occupying forces.[7] In late October 2008, president Mikheil Saakashvili signed into law legislation on the occupied territories passed by the Parliament of Georgia. The law covers the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and the territory of former South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast.[8]

After the war Russians gradually withdrew from Georgia proper, but they remained in Perevi.[9] On 12 December 2008, Russian forces withdrew from Perevi. Eight hours later, a 500-strong Russian contingent re-occupied the village, and Georgian police withdrew after the Russians threatened to fire.[10] On 18 October 2010, all Russian troops in Perevi withdrew to South Ossetia and a Georgian Army unit moved in.[9]

In April 2010, the foreign affairs committee of the Georgian Parliament appealed to legislative bodies of 31 countries, asking to declare Georgia’s two regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia as territories under Russian occupation and to recognize that the massive displacement of civilians from those regions by Russia amounts to ethnic cleansing.[11][12][13]

On 14 March 2012, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia was ready to lift visa requirement for Georgian citizens in case of repealing by Tbilisi its law on occupied territories. "When he [President Saakashvili] announced that all Russian citizens could travel to Georgia without visa, he forgot to mention that a law ‘on occupied territories’ is in force in Georgia according to which anyone who has visited South Ossetia or Abkhazia since [the 2008 August] war, which was launched by Saakashvili, will face criminal liability in Georgia with jail term from two to four years," RIA Novosti news agency quoted Lavrov as saying while addressing the lawmakers in the State Duma.[14]

On 14 May 2013, Sergey Shoygu, Russian minister of Defense, visited a Russian military base in Gudauta. He paid attention to the living conditions of the deployed servicemen and the construction site of a parking zone for existing and incoming military equipment.[15]

On 16 May 2013, the amendments were made to the law on occupied territories of Georgia. Violating this law first time will entail administrative sanctions, not criminal persecution and imprisonment as it was before. According to the amendments if a person crosses the border illegally first time he/she is fined for GEL 400, while repeated violation is still a criminal offense posing up to 1 year of imprisonment or minimum GEL 800 fine.[16][17]

In July 2013, reports emerged that the actor Gérard Depardieu would be investigated by Georgian authorities for the violation of law. Georgian Government representative said that "Depardieu visited Abkhazia’s capital, Sukhumi, and met with the region's separatist leadership on July 1 without preliminary consultations with Tbilisi."[18]

On 15 April 2014, after annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, Ukrainian Rada adopted the law "On Ensuring Protection of the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens and Legal Regime on the Temporarily Occupied Territory of Ukraine".[19] Ukrainian law is based on the Georgian law on Occupied Territories.[20]

Georgian law[edit]

"The Law of Georgia on Occupied Territories" (in Georgian), 23 October 2008.

According to the Georgian law on occupied territories, the term “the occupied territories and territorial waters” or “The Occupied Territories” covers the territories of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, Tskhinvali Region (territory of the former South Ossetia Autonomous Region) and waters in the Black Sea located in the aquatic territory of the Black Sea, along Georgia’s state border with the Russian Federation, to the South of the Psou river, up to the administrative border at the estuary of the Engury River. The term also covers the air space over the aforementioned territories.

The law spells out restrictions on free movement and economic activity in the territories. In particular, according to the law, foreign citizens should enter the two breakaway regions only from Georgia. Entry into Abkhazia should be carried out from the Zugdidi District and into South Ossetia from the Gori District.

The legislation also lists special cases in which entry into the breakaway regions will not be regarded as illegal. It stipulates that a special permit on entry into the breakaway regions can be issued if the trip there "serves Georgia’s state interests; peaceful resolution of the conflict; de-occupation or humanitarian purposes." Also the citizens of foreign countries and persons without citizenship having entered Georgia from Russian side through Abkhazia and South Ossetia, who seek asylum in the country aren't subject to the punishment.

Any economic activity (entrepreneurial or non-entrepreneurial) is prohibited regardless whether or not it is implemented for receiving profit, income or compensation, if under the laws of Georgia ‘On Licenses and Permits’, ‘On Entrepreneurs’, ‘On Bee-Farming’, ‘On Museums’, ‘On Water’, ‘On Civil Registry’, ‘On Electronic Communications’, the Maritime Code of Georgia or the Civil Code of Georgia, such activity requires a license, permit, authorization or registration or if, under the Georgian legislation, such activity requires an agreement but it has not been granted. Any transaction related to real estate property and concluded in violation of the Georgian law is deemed void from the moment of conclusion and does not give rise to any legal consequences.

The law prohibits international air traffic and maritime traffic (except for the cases defined in the UN Convention on Maritime Law of 1982), railway traffic and international automobile transportation of cargo. The law also prohibits the use of national resources and organization of cash transfer. The provision covering economic activities is retroactive, going back to 1990.

The law says that the Russian Federation – the state which has carried out military occupation – is fully responsible for the violation of human rights in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Russian Federation, according to the document, is also responsible for compensation of material and moral damage inflicted on Georgian citizens, stateless persons and foreign citizens, who are in Georgia and enter the occupied territories with appropriate permits.

The law also says that de facto state agencies and officials operating in the occupied territories are regarded by Georgia as illegal. The law will remain in force until "full restoration of the jurisdiction of Georgia."[21]

International support[edit]

  •  Azerbaijan — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan issued a statement in which it called on the citizens of Azerbaijan to refrain from traveling to Abkhazia and South Ossetia without permission of Georgian authorities and warned that these trips were considered illegal and the travelers would be punished accordingly. The Ministry also referred to these territories as "territories that are out of control of its Government."[22]
  •  Belarus — Belarus advised its citizens to abide by Georgian laws when travelling to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Foreign Ministry of Belarus stated that Belarusians should only use entrance points on the Georgian side.[23] In response, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said that the recommendation of Belarusian Government was "strange".[24]
  •  Ukraine — In connection with the adoption of the Georgian law on occupied territories, Foreign Ministry of Ukraine has advised their citizens to fulfill the provision of international law and refuse to cross the border from the Russian side.[25][26]

Russian position[edit]

Russia claims, that "Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not occupied territories, but independent States."[27] The Russian Federation also holds that "it does not at present, nor will it in the future, exercise effective control over South Ossetia or Abkhazia" and that "it was not an occupying power". It also noted that "despite having crossed into the territory of Georgia in the course of the conflict, Russia was not an occupying power in terms of IHL." According to Russia, "the number of Russian troops stationed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia [...] does not allow Russia in practice to establish effective control over these territories which total 12 500 sq. kilometers in size."[28]

In June 2013 Russian Foreign Ministry asked Georgia to abolish the law on the occupied territories of Georgia. Russian deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin claimed that the abolition of the law would "create a favorable environment for cultural exchanges, above all for tourist trips."[29]

Facts on the ground[edit]

Currently 20% of Georgia's internationally recognized territory is under Russian military occupation. Russia does not allow the EUMM monitors to enter South Ossetia and Abkhazia in violation of the Six Point Ceasefire Agreement.[30]

The report prepared by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, raised concerns that Russia "not only failed to withdraw, it expanded territory under its control beyond the pre-war conflict zones" and Russia "established a troop presence in 51 villages it did not control before the war and conducted military patrols on territory it did not previously hold".[31] The report also describes Russian military presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia:

"Russia also deployed new weapons systems, such as attack helicopters and tanks where they did not exist before the war. By October 2010, Abkhazia and South Ossetia became host to “Smerch” type offensive rockets, “Tochka-U,” and S-21, a tactical rocket that can carry nuclear, cluster, or chemical agents up to 150 kilometers. S-300 surface to air missiles were based in Abkhazia. Russia signed 49-year lease agreements with automatic 5-year renewals in Gudauta and Tskhinvali. Russia has built 5 permanent military bases in South Ossetia manned by approximately 5,000 security personnel. Another 5,000 are based in Abkhazia. Both deployments include regular army troops, border guards and FSB personnel. Russia’s Ministry of Defense revamped its military command in the North Caucasus, linking it to Russian forces in Georgia."[31]

Russian border operations[edit]

A Georgian villager is left beyond the barbed-wire fence installed by the Russian troops along the South Ossetia–Georgia demarcation line in September 2013.

The demarcation of the South Ossetian boundary in Shida Kartli started in 2011 with the construction of a few fences in Ditsi and Dvani, but it was stopped after local negotiations.[32]

The process of border demarcation continued in February 2013.[33] Russian troops started the installation of barbed wire barriers to separate the South Ossetian territory from the rest of Georgia.[32][34] In some instances, the Georgian residents could not access their plots or come out of their homes because the border of barbed wire runs through or around their property.[32] According to Georgia’s Interior Ministry, there was no fencing activities at the administrative border of Georgia’s other breakaway region of Abkhazia, where the Enguri river served as "a natural dividing line", but Russian troops were blocking the pathways to prevent "illegal" movement across the administrative boundary line.[35] The new South Ossetia-Georgia border extended between 50–300 meters beyond the occupation line.[36] By August 2013, an estimated 27 kilometers of barriers had been built.[37]

The process - erecting borders between Russian-occupied territories and Georgia proper - was called “borderization”. The “borderization” is a gradual advance of the occupation line inside Georgia and involves grabbing small chunks of Georgian terrain to enlarge the Russian-held territory, placing it nominally under South Ossetian administration.[38] The "borderization" intensified after Russian President Vladimir Putin endorsed a proposal by the Russian government to sign an agreement on the state border between Russia and South Ossetia. The decree published on September 12 said that Putin had directed the Foreign Ministry to hold talks with South Ossetia and sign a treaty upon reaching an agreement.[33] In Dvani, the village of Kareli Municipality, the border was moved further inside the Georgian-controlled territories by 400 metres.[39] New border crossed through several Georgian villages, and effectively separated people from their farmland, ancestral homes, and cemeteries.[40] By late October 2013, about 40 km of fencing or barbed wire had been erected, supported by intermittent pylons equipped with hi-tech surveillance cameras. Russia had built 19 border guard bases.[41]

In September 2013 it was suggested that the continuation of "borderization" would place 1600 metres of Baku–Supsa oil pipeline beyond the occupation line.[33][39] Georgian deputy Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, Ilia Eloshvili said that the Russians had to move the line one more kilometer into the Georgian-controlled territory in order the portion of the pipeline to be under their authority. According to him, theoretically there would be no problems for operating the underground pipeline, but the BP supervisors would not be able to supervise this portion of the pipeline.[42]

Russian authorities remained tight-lipped about the developments, claiming only that South Ossetia was marking out "its true territorial boundaries in line with maps from the Soviet-era", when it was an autonomous region within the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. The Russian Foreign Ministry also dismissed the report that the boundary was being shifted further into Georgia proper and warned of "serious consequences" if Tbilisi continued what it described as "political speculation".[40] Sergey Lavrov declared that fences across South Ossetia will no longer be needed after “hotheads cool down.”[43]

The installation of a security fence along the 400 kilometre Georgian-South Ossetian administrative boundary line (ABL) had a huge impact on the lives of local people.[44] The border was also dubbed a "rural Berlin Wall" for all the villages it had split into two.[37][45] The EUMM representative said: "Just walking up to the fence means you’ve already crossed over and will be arrested." According to EUMM spokesperson Ann Vassen, the detention cases were around five to six per week.[45] Georgians suspected that the fence-building by the Russian military personnel was connected to the fact that their country made steps towards close cooperation with the European Union by initiating an association agreement with the EU.[46][47]

In January 2014, it was announced that swathe of Abkhazian territory would be included in part of the large "security zone" being set up in advance of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. In a period between January 20 and March 21, anyone entering the zone had to produce documents to police. A stationary checkpoint was established at the village of Bagripshi in Gagra district on the edge of the 11 km (seven miles) zone, which was manned by officers from the Abkhaz security service, interior ministry and migration service.[48][49] The Government of Georgia expressed "deep concern" over the "illegal expansion".[50]

On 15 April 2014, three Georgian journalists were detained near an administrative boundary line of South Ossetia. The TV crew was working on a report about "borderization" and a shift of the boundary deeper into Georgian-controlled areas.[51] Russia’s Foreign Ministry claimed that the journalists "intentionally and demonstratively" crossed the border and this was "a planned action for the purposes of complicating the atmosphere" of the scheduled meeting between Russian and Georgian diplomats (Grigory Karasin and Zurab Abashidze) in Prague on April 16. The Ministry said in an official statement: "All this, together with the latest cock-and-bull stories about “violations of Georgian air space by Russian aircraft”, is evidence that the forces attempting to normalise relations with Russia, and the forces sharing the regime of Mikheil Saakashvili supporting the escalation of hostilities, continue to fight within the Georgian community."[52][53] The detained journalists were released later on 16 April. One of them, journalist Bela Zakaidze recalled the hours spent in pre-detention isolator in Tskhinvali and talked about psychological pressure.[54] Grigory Karasin said: "The journalists were detained for understandable reasons. Today they were expelled back to Georgian territory under a judgment of the South Ossetian court."[55]

As of late July 2014, Russian forces are still constructing "security fence" across South Ossetia.[56]

Georgian reaction[edit]

"What’s happening is very unpleasant and, frankly speaking, incomprehensible, too. I thought a different relationship would develop between the new Georgian government and Russia," Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said in an interview with Georgian newspaper in May 2013.[32]

On 21 September 2013, Alex Petriashvili, the Georgian State Minister of Euro-Atlantic Integration said that the recent "provocations" did not promote normalization of relations between Georgia and Russia. "We think that Georgian government responds the provocations that took place in recent days and months maturely and coherently and we don’t yield to the provocations. These provocations don’t promote normalization of Georgia-Russian relations."[57]

The Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili raised the issue during his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2013. “The annexation of Georgian lands by Russian troops continues,” he stated. “Despite the friendly statements made by the new Georgian government in recent weeks and months, the Russian military keeps advancing its positions, dividing communities with new barbed wire and threatening our economy.”[58]

On 25 September 2013, Ivanishvili declared that the resumption of "borderization" along South Ossetia-Georgia demarcation line was linked to the Kremlin’s anxiety regarding the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. He also said: “Much will be clarified probably after the Olympics. At this stage all these barbwires, I think, is not even in the interest of [Russia], but the Olympics is of major importance for Russia.”[59]

President Giorgi Margvelashvili said on 26 February 2014, that “completely senseless” process of "borderization" aimed at “maintaining conflict”. He said: "These barbed wire fences have no strategic military purpose whatsoever. This is an action definitely directly against the people – against those people who want to see and meet each other beyond barbed wire fences."[60]

On 3 March 2014, several hundred Georgians held a rally in the village Atotsi near the South Ossetian boundary protesting the resumption of installation of barbed wire by Russian soldiers. Demonstrators carried Ukrainian flags because they saw the similarity between the situation in Georgia and the crisis in Ukraine. Demonstrators also performed the Georgian anthem.[61] Ossetian/Russian news agency OSInform reported that a rally was held by "Georgian fascist elements", the number of "the destructive elements" was about 500, and they were "accompanied by the Georgian Polizei." The news report concluded that "Georgian fascism is not finished off and is raising its head together with the Ukrainian supporters of Bandera."[62]

International position[edit]

States[edit]

Ukraine[edit]

On 19 September 2008, Hryhoriy Omelchenko, member of Verkhovna Rada from Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, declared that Russia attacked Georgia without a declaration of war and occupied the Georgian territories. He said that: "Therefore, according to international legal norms, Russian Federation is an aggressor, invader and occupant." He called for respect for inviolability of existing borders and territorial integrity.[63]

Lithuania and Poland[edit]

In November 2008, President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus and President of Poland Lech Kaczyński issued a joint declaration on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia. They acknowledged "that the 12 August ceasefire agreement has not yet been fully implemented, in particular with respect to the points concerning Russian troops’ withdrawal to pre-conflict positions and free access to humanitarian aid, as it was agreed between the European and Russian leaderships." They said that "OSCE as well as EU observers should be allowed in the occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia." The Presidents stressed that the "deployment and continuous increase of Russian troops in Georgia, including Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, undermine the peace building efforts in Georgia sponsored by the European Union and other international agencies." They called "on the international community and the governments of the European Union to demand full and unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgian territory in compliance with the 12 August ceasefire agreement, which was unanimously confirmed by the European leaders at the September 1st EU Summit."[64]

Lithuania[edit]

The first European country to officially recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia as the territories under Russian military occupation, became Lithuania.[65] The Lithuanian Seimas adopted a resolution condemning Russian occupation of Georgian territories on 1 June 2010.[66] The resolution said that Russia's use of the local puppet regimes to control the regions constituted a violation of international law.[67] Viktor Zubkov, first deputy Prime Minister of Russia, said that the resolution "distorted all the facts of the August 2008 events."[65]

In March 2014, Lithuanian ambassador to the United States, Žygimantas Pavilionis said in an interview for the LRT TV programme Savaitė, that after the Russo-Georgian War everyone in Brussels "laughed about Lithuania's position." He said that "...at that time, the Western world forgot and forgave Russia for what it did in Georgia—occupied a large part of its territory, and is still keeping it".[68] In July 2014, Žygimantas Pavilionis said that when Russia occupied the Georgian territories, Lithuanian diplomats "were the only ones who tried to defend freedom of Georgia till the end".[69]

United States[edit]

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted that Russia is occupying parts of Georgia and building permanent military bases in contravention of the truce during a visit to Tbilisi in 2010. According to Russian news agencies, then Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin commented on this statement, saying that "They [Georgians] mustn't seek solutions outside," and "It's necessary to conduct a dialogue without citing third parties."[70][71]

In December 2010, the U.S. Senate discussed a draft resolution on Georgia's territorial integrity. It was prepared by Jeanne Shaheen. The draft expressed support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as "regions occupied by the Russian Federation". The Russian Foreign Ministry slammed a draft, saying "with regret, that the draft resolution – as well as positions of many members of the Congress – ignores the new reality, which emerged after Saakashvili’s regime unleashed its aggression in August, 2008."[72]

On 4 March 2011, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Philip Gordon, said that use of term 'occupied' by Washington in reference to Abkhazia and South Ossetia was not meant to be a "provocation", but "simply description of situation on the ground."[73]

In July 2011 the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a resolution introduced by U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) affirming U.S. support for the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of the country of Georgia and calling upon Russia to remove its occupying forces from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.[74] The resolution also says that the Senate affirms “that finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict is a key priority for the United States in the Caucasus region and that lasting regional stability can only be achieved through peaceful means and long-term diplomatic and political dialogue between all parties”.[75] The U.S. senator Lindsey Graham said that “Russia’s invasion of Georgian land in 2008 was an act of aggression not only to Georgia, but to all new democracies.”[74] Russian Foreign Ministry criticised a U.S. resolution, saying that it was "no more than PR move". Russia also said that the resolution encouraged Georgia's "revanchist sentiments".[76] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the U.S. Senate resolution reflected only the “views of some of its senile members”. “This is a foreign parliament and it is their own business,” he told Russian Ekho Moskvy radio, Russia Today TV and Georgia’s PIK-TV at his residence in Sochi.[77][78]

On 20 September 2013, the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi expressed concern over "borderization" activities in Georgia along the administrative boundary lines of Russian-occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The statement called for the barriers "to be removed in accordance with Russia's commitments under the August 2008 cease-fire agreement and its obligations under international humanitarian law."[79]

In October 2013, US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf denounced the erection of fences and other physical barriers by Russian security forces "along the administrative boundary lines of the occupied territories in Georgia".[80][81]

In November 2013, US Ambassador Richard S. Williamson published an article about Georgia where he referred to Russian presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia as "illegal occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia".[82]

In 2014, when tensions between Ukraine and Russia escalated, the US Secretary of State John Kerry denounced Russia’s continued military presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in violation of the ceasefire. “We continue to object to Russia’s occupation, militarisation and borderisation of Georgian territory, and we call on Russia to fulfil its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of forces and free access for humanitarian assistance,” he said.[83][84]

France[edit]

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said during a visit to Tbilisi in July 2010 that "Abkhazia and South Ossetia are integral parts of Georgia and Russia should withdraw its troops from those territories."[85] He also said that "the term "occupation" cannot solve the problems between Georgia and Russia" while answering questions from journalists.[86]

In May 2014, President François Hollande had three-day trip to South Caucasus countries and finished by visiting Georgia on 13 May. Speaking at a joint news conference with his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Margvelashvili, he said that Georgia’s territories remain occupied and the cease-fire agreement is not fully respected.[87] "France did everything for the agreement to be reached and the conflict to stop. However we see today that occupation still exists and Georgia still has to regain territorial integrity," Hollande said while speaking about the 2008 Georgia-Russia war.[88]

Spain[edit]

During his visit to Georgia in May 2012, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Spanish Congress of Deputies, called on Georgian citizens not to allow the Russian military exercises, named "Kavkaz 2012", to influence the parliamentary elections in October 2012. On behalf of Spain, he expressed the support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and condemned the Russian occupation.[89][90]

Romania[edit]

In March 2014, the President of Romania Traian Basescu at the presentation of the Defence Ministry’s annual report declared: "We can no longer see the incidents of 2008, when the Russian Federation occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as isolated occurrences. Ukraine was next, so all politicians and all military strategists are bound to ask, who will follow. Could it be Transdniestr, could it be the Republic of Moldova? These are questions anyone may ask. The unpredictability of the Russian Federation prompts us to look at various scenarios and response options."[91]

Basescu told Realitatea TV broadcaster on 13 April 2014 that "the Russian forces control the Black Sea almost in its entirety, through controling all these frozen conflicts." He also said that "In Transnistria they occupy Moldovan territory, in Crimea they occupy Ukrainian territory, in Georgia they occupy Georgian territory, South Ossetia and Abkhazia..."[92]

Organizations[edit]

NATO[edit]

In November 2010, NATO Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution containing the terms ‘occupied territories’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ referring to Russian military presence and actions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. NATO parliamentarians urged Russia "to reverse" the results of ethnic cleansing and allow "the safe and dignified return of all internally displaced persons to their homes". The Resolution condemned the tightening by Russian FSB Border Troops of procedures for crossing the Administrative Border Line, enhancement of Russia's military presence on the occupied territories as well as Russia's blocking of the extension of the OSCE and UN missions in Georgia. It urged Russia to allow EUMM unimpeded access to the entire territory of Georgia. NATO Parliamentary Assembly also welcomed Georgia's State Strategy on Occupied Territories and the Action Plan for Engagement.[93]

In late June 2013, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during his visit to Georgia said that the fence-building by the Russian troops "impedes freedom of movement" and could "further inflame tensions" in the region.[32]

On 2 October 2013, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed concern over Moscow's activities to install fences along the administrative boundary lines of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He called for the removal of the barriers, which he said affect "the lives of those citizens of Georgia who live on either side of the administrative boundary lines." He also stated that the erection of the barriers "is in contradiction with Russia's international commitments and does not contribute to a peaceful resolution of the conflict."[94]

On 5 February 2014, NATO criticized Russia for expanding its border deeper into Georgia's region of Abkhazia, a move Moscow had portrayed as a temporary step to expand a security zone around the Sochi Winter Olympics. "We have noted the recent decision to temporarily extend the so-called border zone of Abkhazia further into Georgian territory without the Georgian government's consent," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. "We are very concerned about that decision," he told a news conference in Brussels.[95]

EU[edit]

A document adopted by the European Parliament in March 2011 condemned Russian military presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, calling it "non-mandated presence of the Russian military troops in the occupied regions of Georgia". The document also mentions ethnic cleansing of Georgians, non-fulfillment of the ceasefire agreement of August 12, 2008, and talks about the necessity to deploy international peacekeeping forces. It also condemned the decision of the joint Russian-Abkhaz Commission on Property Rights that violated Georgian IDPs' right to claim their property in Abkhazia.[96]

In October 2011, in an official European Parliament document, Georgia’s regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Tskhinvali region) were called occupied territories. Russian recognition of those regions and Russian military presence in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia in violation of the fundamental norms and principles of international law was criticised.[97]

On 17 November 2011, European Parliament passed the resolution where Abkhazia and South Ossetia were recognized as occupied territories. The resolution noted that Russia continued "to occupy the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/ South Ossetia, in violation of the fundamental norms and principles of international law; whereas ethnic cleansing and forcible demographic changes have taken place in the areas under the effective control of the occupying force, which bears the responsibility for human rights violations in these areas;" The resolution asks Russia to live up to the ceasefire agreement signed in 2008 and to guarantee EUMM full unlimited access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The resolution also called on Russia "to reverse its recognition of the separation of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/ South Ossetia, to end the occupation of those Georgian territories and to fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia as well as the inviolability of its internationally-recognised borders as provided for by international law, the UN Charter, the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions."[98]

In May 2013, Andrzej Tyszkiewicz, the head of EUMM, commented on the installation of fences in Georgia. He said that "EUMM has observed an increase in the construction of fences and obstacles, which has a negative impact on the local population." "The freedom of movement of communities living in areas adjacent to the Administrative Boundary Lines is a key priority for EUMM," Tyszkiewicz continued. "The installation of fences impedes people’s livelihood and divides families and communities. This is unacceptable."[99]

In October 2013, after meeting Mikheil Saakashvili in Brussels, José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, condemned the "borderization". "The EU firmly condemns the erection of fences and barriers on Georgia’s internal administrative boundaries, in breach of the 2008 ceasefire agreements," Barroso said. "This has a directly negative impact on the local populations."[47]

In November 2013, European Commission mentioned the term "occupied territories" in the report to describe Abkhazia and South Ossetia.[100]

In February 2014, European Parliament adopted the resolution regarding EU-Russia summit. The EP members called on Russia to fulfil unconditionally all the provisions of the 12 August 2008 ceasefire agreement. The resolution condemned Russian actions in the occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in particular the creation of barbed-wire fences. The resolution also noted that "the unresolved Russia-Georgia conflict is hampering the stability and development of Georgia."[101]

OSCE[edit]

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly held its annual session in Monaco on 9 July 2012.[102][103] It passed a resolution supporting Georgia, and referring to breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia as occupied territories. The resolution urged “the Government and the Parliament of the Russian Federation, as well as the de facto authorities of Abkhazia, Georgia, and South Ossetia, Georgia, to allow the European Union Monitoring Mission unimpeded access to the occupied territories". It also said that the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly was “concerned about the humanitarian situation of the displaced persons both in Georgia and in the occupied territories of Abkhazia, Georgia, and South Ossetia, Georgia, as well as the denial of the right of return to their places of living.”[104]

Russian Foreign Ministry reacted harshly, saying that "the majority of deputies in the Assembly (parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE) once again don't wish to objectively accept the realities of the situation today in the Caucasus."[105]

Council of Europe[edit]

In 2013, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution, expressing its concern over the humanitarian consequences of 2008 war. The Assembly also called for granting "full and unimpeded access to the European Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) to the former conflict zones that are now occupied".[106]

In April 2014, the Council of Europe adopted a resolution that condemned Russian aggression against Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. The council's assembly withdrew the voting rights of Russia's 18-member delegation until the end of 2014. The resolution was adopted by 145 votes to 21, with 22 abstentions.[107] The resolution also criticised Russia for its military presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, saying that Russian Federation failed to implement CoE Resolutions 1633 (2008), 1647 (2009) and 1683 (2009) on the consequences of the Russo-Georgian war and Russian troops still occupy the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Assembly also criticised the refusal of the Russian Federation to allow EU monitors and to reverse ethnic cleansing.[108][109]

In media[edit]

Many international journalists and media companies, such as Fox News, Al Jazeera, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, The New York Times, Forbes, The Washington Post and Der Spiegel have referred to Abkhazia and South Ossetia as Russian occupied territories.[110][111][112][113][114][115][116]

In August 2011, British ex-MP Bruce George published an article in which he referred to Abkhazia and South Ossetia as territories "under the occupation of Russian troops".[117]

In March 2014, Garry Kasparov, Russian chess Grandmaster and political activist, wrote:

"I noted that Putin’s invasion of Georgia took place during the Beijing Olympiad in 2008 and wondered what would dissuade him from similar action in Ukraine since Russian troops still occupy South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgian territories, with no visible harm to Putin’s international relations. By the way, Russia was never sanctioned by the European or the United States over Georgia, and just a few months after the brief war ended the EU restarted talks with Russia on a formal partnership and cooperation agreement."[118]

In May 2014, the Ukrainian news agencies, Komsomolskaya Pravda and Obozrevatel wrote in the news reports about the unrest in Abkhazia that "After five years from the Russian occupation, Abkhazia became an outsider."[119][120]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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