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Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia on the 13th anniversary of the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war

7 August 2021 marks 13 years since Russia’s military aggression against Georgia and illegal occupation of Georgia’s indivisible regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.

13 years ago it was Georgia where the Russian Federation first applied its aggressive policy of violation of territorial integrity and internationally recognized borders of sovereign states, which has seriously threatened European and Transatlantic security and undermined the rules-based international order. Russia’s full-scale military intervention in Georgia through air, land, sea and cyber attacks in August 2008, as well as illegal occupation of Georgia’s territories, steps towards their de-facto annexation and intensified so-called borderisation process along the occupation line that continue for the last 13 years blatantly violate the fundamental norms and principles of international law, the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act.

After 13 years the European Court of Human Rights ruled its verdict on Russia’s forcible invasion of Georgia, and established that the Russian Federation, as the state occupying and exercising effective control over the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, had been responsible for violation of multiple articles of the European Convention of Human Rights during the August 2008 war and the period of subsequent occupation of Georgia’s territories. Namely, the Strasbourg Court found Russia responsible for grave crimes and abuses of the fundamental human rights, such as: deprivation of the right to life and killing of peaceful civilians and militaries; their torture, inhuman and degrading treatment; ethnic cleansing, burning, looting and destroying Georgian villages; violation of the right of hundreds of thousands of IDPs and refugees to return to their homes; violation of the right to liberty and security; infringement of the right to freedom of movement, the right to respect for private and family life and the property rights. The Court also ruled that the Russian Federation continues its illegal military presence on Georgia’s territory in full disregard for the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement and violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Despite that, the Russian Federation continues occupation and militarization of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, regularly conducts illegal military exercises in those regions, intensively fortifies the occupation line with barbed wire fences and various artificial barriers, follows the practice of rbitrary detention and kidnapping of the local peaceful population, restricts freedom of movement of the conflict-affected people and deliberately hinders the return of IDPs and refugees, who have been forcibly expelled as a result of multiple waves of ethnic cleansing, to their homes. With such aggressive steps, the Russian Federation continues to use force and threat of force against Georgia, and tries to destabilize the country through active hybrid warfare tools.

Against this backdrop, the human rights situation in Georgia’s occupied territories has been deteriorating on a daily basis. In addition to the restrictions on freedom of movement, ethnic discrimination against Georgians living in the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions has been intensified, education in native Georgian language has been banned, while residents of Gali and Akhalgori districts continue to live in extremely difficult socio-economic conditions. The humanitarian situation of the conflict-affected population has become even more critical during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. At the same time, the impunity on crimes committed on the ground of ethnicity has been strengthened, as it has been encouraged as a result of hindering execution of justice in the cases of murder of Georgian citizens – D.Basharuli, G.Otkhozoria and A.Tatunashvili by representatives of the occupation regimes.

Despite those challenges, the Government of Georgia unwaveringly pursues its peaceful conflict resolution and conflict transformation policy, which is directed towards de-occupation of the Georgian regions by Russia and the safe and dignified return of the IDPs and refugees, on the one hand; and reconciliation and confidence building between the Georgian population divided by occupation line, on the other hand. Georgia has fully implemented the 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement and has numerously reconfirmed its unilateral adherence to the commitment of the non-use of force, still awaiting for the reciprocity from the Russian side. In parallel, the Georgian Government has been taking active steps to deepen engagement and interaction between the societies divided by war and occupation line, and continues implementation of the peace initiative "A Step to a Better Future".  Recently, the Government of Georgia has established the Government Commission for elaboration and subsequent implementation of “State Strategy for De-Occupation and Peaceful Conflict Resolution” with the aim to build an inclusive, whole-of-nation process to pursue a more effective, results-oriented and comprehensive peace policy. We are ready for a broad dialogue to define jointly together with the Abkhaz and Ossetian societies our common future and to ensure peaceful, mutual interests based cohabitation in a modern, European, democratic state that will attract Abkhaz and Ossetian communities and equally protect their rights and freedoms.

Georgia highly values the strong support of the international community for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, as well as the significant role the partner countries and international organisations  are playing in support of the peaceful conflict resolution process.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia calls upon the Russian Federation to respect the fundamental principles of international law and fulfil its obligations under the 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, withdraw its occupation forces from Georgia’s territory, reverse the illegal decision on recognition of so-called independence of the occupied territories, and allow deployment of international security mechanisms on the ground.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia appeals to the international community to take decisive efforts in the process of de-occupation of Georgia’s territories and return of IDPs and refugees to their homes, facilitate ensuring peace and security in Georgia and Eastern Europe, and duly assess Russia’s continuous aggressive policy in the wider Black Sea region.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs avails of the opportunity and expresses its condolences to the families and relatives of the civilians and the soldiers who died heroically in the 2008 War.