Press-releases of the Embassy

August 26, 2008

On the situation around South Ossetia and Abkhazia (press review)

1. Russia recognizes independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia

Russia has recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

President Dmitry Medvedev signed corresponding decrees earlier today. In a special televised address, he said this had been done with regard for the free will of the Ossetian and Abkhaz population and in conformity with the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and other international documents.

Mr. Medvedev urged all other countries to follow suit. He said this was no easy choice to make but it was the sole chance of saving peoples lives.

Mr. Medvedev noted that the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who had chosen genocide as a tool to resolve his political tasks, had himself dashed all hopes for the peaceful co-existence of Ossetians, Abkhazes and Georgians in one state.

The population of South Ossetia and Abkhazia has repeatedly voted for secession from Georgia in local referendums. Last week, the two republics, in a formal address signed by their leadership and parliaments, asked Russia to recognize their independence. On Monday, the upper and lower houses of the Russian parliament backed the address and urged President Medvedev to make a positive decision. The issue was then debated by the Russian Security Council at its emergency session in Sochi later in the day.

We are all well aware of South Ossetias tragedy. The night shelling of Tskhinvali by the Georgian troops led to the deaths of thousands of civilians. Russian peacekeepers have died, but they did everything they could to protect the civilian population," Medvedev said in the announcement.

The Georgian government - breaking UN regulations and its obligations to the international community, running counter to common sense - started a military conflict which claimed many civilians lives. Tbilisi must have planned to carry out a blitzkrieg and chose the most inhumane way to annex South Ossetia by destroying its whole population.

Medvedev believes it can now be clearly seen that a peaceful resolution of the conflict was not in Tbilisis plans.

The Georgian leadership was getting ready for war step by step, he said. And on the night of August 8, 2008, Tbilisi made its choice. Saakashvili chose genocide as a means to solve his political tasks. Doing this, he destroyed with his own hands all hopes for the peaceful living of South Ossetians, Abkhazians and Georgians as part of one state.

We understand that after what had happened in Tskhinvali, and what was planned to be done in Abkhazia, these people have a right to resolve their fates themselves. Presidents of both republics - basing their policies on the results of referendums and the decisions of the republics parliaments - turned to Russia, asking us to recognise the sovereignty of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The Federation Council and the State Duma of the Russian Federation voted in favour of these applications.

We respect the free will of the South Ossetian and Abkhazian people, and basing our actions on international regulations and documents, I have signed an order to recognise the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia by the Russian Federation. Russia is also calling on other states to follow suit.

Hard road to independence

South Ossetia, which borders Russia in the south Caucasus, and Abkhazia on the Black Sea, had previously attempted to break away from Georgia following referendums which were overwhelmingly in favour of independence. The results were ignored by Tbilisi, which claimed the ethnic Georgians forced to flee the regions were not consulted. The recent conflict in South Ossetia has added further urgency to the demands for self-determination.

The roots of the current discord can be traced back to the divide and conquer policies of Joseph Stalin - himself half Georgian, half Ossetian. Before the 1917 revolution, the ethnic groups of the Caucasus all lived as separate subjects of the Russian empire. However, with the Bolsheviks came the redrawing of the map, with both South Ossetia and Abkhazia becoming parts of Georgia.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the then Georgian leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia advocated a nationalist "Georgia for the Georgians" policy, re-opening old wounds. Two military conflicts followed, leaving thousands dead and forcing many more to flee the conflict zones.

The ceasefire in the early 1990s brought de-facto independence to both regions with the shaky truce maintained by peacekeeping forces of mainly Russian troops.

Since becoming president in 2004, Mikhail Saakashvili has pledged to bring his country closer to the West, which has also motivated his drive to end the territorial disputes.

Ossetians and Georgians have lived side by side for centuries. The two groups share Soviet history and the Orthodox Christian religion and intermarriage is common. But the ties that once bound their cultures have been severely damaged in the trauma of the recent fighting. Kosovo's self-declared independence in February, too, has boosted these regions' ambitions.

Most Abkhazians and South Ossetians carry Russian passports and the only valid currency is the Russian rouble. In addition, both self-declared republics have presidents, flags and national anthems.

2. Russia will not recognise Kosovo: UN ambassador

The six-point peace plan, drawn up by French president Nicholas Sarkozy and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev still applies in South Ossetia, according to Russia's ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin.

But the 6th point regarding the discussion of the territorial situation, which was removed at Sarkozy's request, closed off a diplomatic avenue in the resolution of South Ossetia and Abkhazia's status.

He also confirmed, during a press conference in New York, that Russia does not intend to recognise the independence of Kosovo.

3. Anatoly Nogovitsyin: Georgias blitzkrieg in South Ossetia failed

Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff Anatoly Nogovitsyin has said Georgias blitzkrieg in South Ossetia failed thanks to resistance put up by Russian peacekeepers with the help of combat aviation.

Briefing reporters in Moscow today, he noted that the aggressors had not expected such effective defense from a small peacekeeping force. The heroic actions of Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia had helped thwart Georgias offensive against Abkhazia, which was due to take place immediately after the occupation of South Ossetia.

At present, Russian troops are pulling out of the conflict zone in accordance with the earlier reached agreements. Meanwhile, the Georgian military are trying to escalate tensions. General Nogovitsin expressed dismay at the unusual activity of NATOs naval force in the northeastern sector of the Black Sea, which now comprises 10 battleships.

4. We have evidence of genocide - Russian investigators

Russian investigators say they have found evidence of genocide by the Georgian military against South Ossetians. The Head of Russia's Investigative Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin, said that witnesses reported that Georgian soldiers were throwing cluster bombs into shelters where civilians were hiding.

He also said that investigators came across the body of a pregnant women shot in the head.

Bastrykin added that more than 200 specialists continue to work in the region.

5. Russia warns NATO over build-up of warships in Black Sea

Russias military says it is bewildered by the build-up of NATOs naval force in the Black Sea and scoffed at claims the warships were delivering humanitarian aid. Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff, Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, told a media briefing that there are currently ten NATO warships with cruise missiles in the area, and eight more are expected to arrive there shortly.

These ships are very seriously armed, Nogovitsyn said. As far as cruise missiles are concerned, they are strategic arms and have a range of 2,500 km. The Black Sea is just a pool for them.

The Colonel General added its very hard to believe these ships have arrived just to bring humanitarian aid.

He said the build-up was connected with Georgias wish to restore its military potential and added Russia will find a way to find out if armaments or military gear are being delivered to Georgia by NATO ships.

Nogovitsyn said Russia may stop cooperation with NATO, including military transit to Afghanistan through its territory, though it hasnt done it yet.

"Our Supreme Commander-in-Chief did not say we are stopping cooperation. He just made it clear such a thing can happen because a number of statements have been made by the Pentagon and other countries on possible sanctions - like in the worst times of the Cold War."

According to: Official web-site of the President of the Russian Federation, Voice of Russia State Broadcasting Radio Company, Russia Today TV Channel