Aug 26, 2013

Abkhazia: Five Years Of Recognition By Russia Marked

Five years since Russia recognized independence of Abkhazia was marked on the 26 August 2013.

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August 26 marks five years since Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008. Within a year, several other countries followed suit, among them Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a visit to Abkhazia ahead of the anniversary and met with Abkhaz leader Alexander Ankvab to discuss bilateral ties and cooperation.

Five years ago, in the early hours of August 2008, Georgian troops attacked Tskhinval, the capital of South Ossetia, a former Georgian autonomy, in an unprecedented act of aggression that coincided with the opening of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. Hundreds of civilians and Russian peacekeepers were killed. Tskhinval was 70% destroyed by Georgian shelling. Russia sent troops to protect South Ossetians, most of whom have Russian citizenship, and drove the Georgian troops out in a five-day offensive aimed to force the aggressor to accept peace. Two weeks later, Moscow officially recognized South Ossetia and neighboring Abkhazia as independent sovereign states. By that time, the two republics had been de-facto independent for more than 15 years after proclaiming secession from Georgia in the early 1990s.

In the years that followed the recognition, South Ossetia and Abkhazia have made remarkable progress towards cementing their statehood politically and economically, analyst Alexander Shatilov told the Voice of Russia.

“South Ossetia has managed to consolidate its society around common goals and created a full-fledged system of power bodies. Unlike Abkhazia which began building its own statehood in 1993, South Ossetia was stuck in the intermediary stage for quite a time with several Georgian enclaves – villages – refusing to recognize its de-facto secession,” he said.

For both republics, however, it’s vital to promote neighborly relations and constructive dialogue with Georgia. “Russia and Georgia have managed to resume dialogue. And if the Georgian Dream party led by Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili wins Georgia’s presidential elections this autumn, it may bring the sides closer towards broader, though still fragile and cautious cooperation,” Shatilov added.

Russia did all it could to prevent the armed standoff between Georgia and its two breakaway autonomies from escalating into a bloody war, said Oleg Ivannikov, head of the Russia-Caucasus research center. “One point to remember is that the introduction of a peacekeeping contingent into Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the 1990s halted the deliberate extermination of small peoples. And in 2008, when the Georgian army was trading fire at Russian peacekeepers, killing them point-blank, Russia had no choice but to retaliate. Russia is not seeking a militarization of those regions. All conditions for peaceful development have been created there. Russian, Abkhaz and South Ossetian border guards have been jointly patrolling the border with Georgia to prevent possible provocations or insinuations.”

Independence festivities are being held across Abkhazia and South Ossetia on Monday. In Abkhazia, August 26 is a non-working day.