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GEORGIA’S REACTION TO THE INDEPENDENT INTERNATIONAL FACT-FINDING MISSION REPORT ON WAR

 

TBILISI, September 30, 2009-The independent Commission tasked by the European Council to discover the facts related to the origins of last year's invasion of Georgia by Russia released its report. Almost all of the facts in the report confirm the Georgian version of events.

The Commission confirms that Russia invaded Georgia before Georgia took military action. It also confirms that Georgian civilians and peacekeepers were under attack, on Georgian soil, before August 7. The report also gives ample evidence of Russia's military buildup in the months before August 2008, and of Russia's political provocations that violated Georgian sovereignty and international law. In addition, the Commission confirms that Russian-backed forces undertook the ethnic cleansing of Georgian citizens. 

The report also confirms that Russian military operationa in 2008 appear to most analysts to have been well-planned and well- executed. The operational planning has been validated in practice during the Kavkaz- 2008 (and previous exercises since 2005).

The most important fact documented by the Commission is that regular armed Russian forces and mercenaries illegally crossed into Georgia before August 8, 2008. The Commission writes: "There seems to have been an influx of volunteers or mercenaries from the territory of the Russian Federation to South Ossetia through the Roki tunnel and over the Caucasus range in early August, as well as the presence of some Russian forces in South Ossetia, other than the Russian JPKF [Peacekeeping] battalion, prior to 14.30 hours on 8 August 2008."

The Government regrets that while the Commission has proven that Russian troops were illegally in Georgia, it fails to call this an invasion. Yet it was this invasion that triggered the conflict. The verified illegal presence in Georgia's sovereign territory of non-peacekeeping Russian troops, in violation of all international agreements, can only be called an invasion.

The report, meanwhile, refutes the reasons Russia gave for invading Georgia. In particular Russia claimed that over 2,000 people had been killed in South Ossetia and that it invaded to prevent genocide-this was the pretext for their actions. This report confirms that these Russians claims were an outright lie.

Nor could the Commission verify another Russian pretext: that its peacekeepers were allegedly attacked. By contrast, Georgian peacekeepers were targeted and killed early on August 7. The invasion began before Russian peacekeepers were engaged in armed hostilities.

The report also rejects the Russian concept of protecting its citizens abroad in the context of this conflict-another Russian pretext for war. The report highlights the Russian passport policy in South Ossetia, and says clearly that South Ossetians were given Russian passports in violation of Georgian sovereignty.  The Russian Federation therefore manufactured citizens to protect.

The report documents in detail the Russian military buildup in the months before the invasion, as well as Russia's provision of military and security assistance to South Ossetian and Abkhazian irregular proxy forces prior to August 7 2008. It also documents a series of intensifying political, economic, legal, and other provocations. One characteristic quote from the report is as follows: "The mass conferral of Russian citizenship to Georgian nationals and the provision of passports on a massive scale on Georgian territory, including its breakaway provinces, without the consent of the Georgian Government...constitutes an open challenge to Georgian sovereignty and an interference in the internal affairs of Georgia."

The report goes into detail in confirming the obvious-that Russia invaded Georgia; Georgia never attacked Russia or any other country. It confirms that attacks and warfare happened on Georgian soil. Among its key findings were there:

  • The Commission found evidence that at least some units of Russian regular forces-not peacekeepers-entered sovereign Georgian territory prior to August 8. That constitutes an illegal invasion.
  • Specifically, as mentioned earlier, the report says: "there seems to have been an influx of volunteers or mercenaries from the territory of the Russian Federation to South Ossetia through the Roki tunnel and over the Caucasus range in early August, as well as the presence of some Russian forces in South Ossetia, other than the Russian JPKF [Peacekeeping] battalion, prior to 14.30 hours on 8 August 2008."
  • The Commission also found evidence that separatist forces were armed and trained by Russia-in defiance of international law and Russia's peacekeeping obligations.
  • The report also points out that these Russian-backed separatist forces broke international law by attacking Georgian civilians in the days before August 7.
  • The report concludes: "The vastly superior political and military weight of Russia toppled the balance of what might have been possible otherwise, if at all, in terms of arrangements between Tbilisi and its two breakaway provinces."

The Government disagrees with the Commission that Georgia used unnecessary and disproportionate force in defending Georgian civilians against what the Commission clearly labels illegal attacks on these civilians. No democratic government can survive if, when foreign forces enter its territory, it fails to defend its citizens. Georgia acted as any democratic nation would have done-a fact that is impossible for an reasonable observer to deny.

While the report acknowledges that Russia armed and supported Tskhinvali and Abkhaz separatists, it avoids assigning the responsibility for their actions to Russian Federation. Nevertheless, there is extensive evidence to prove Russia's direct control of proxy authorities

Furthermore, while acknowledging the military buildup and assistance to proxies, as well the influx of mercenaries attacking civilian populations, the report fails to highlight the flagrant violations committed by the Russian peacekeepers-although all these actions were strictly forbidden by all international agreements. In addition, Georgia provided the Commission with extensive evidence of how Russian peacekeepers directly coordinated with proxy irregular forces before August 7, including coordinating attacks on villages controlled by the Georgian government.

With respect to its invasion of Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, the report confirms that Russia did not even bother to fabricate a pretext, and hence was in direct and gross breach of international law.

In addition, the report confirms the ethnic cleansing of Georgian citizens. This Russian-backed ethnic cleansing took place on Georgian territory while Russian peacekeepers, under international law, were responsible for security on this territory.

In terms of preventative efforts, the Commission vindicates Georgia's efforts in trying to prevent the conflict. The report confirmed that the Georgian Government exerted intense, sustained diplomatic efforts for many months before the war to provide a peaceful solution and to prevent a Russian invasion of Georgia. Regrettably, these requests were blocked by the Russian Federation and its proxies.

The report states clearly that the recognition of the Georgian regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Russia is a clear violation of international law.

Overall the report confirms that Russia committed act of aggression against a sovereign state, thereby gravely violated international law, including the UN Charter, Helsinki Final Act, UN Security Council Resolutions as well as its own Constitution and Criminal Code.

Today, the Russian occupation of Georgia continues, in breach of international law and of the August 12, 2008, Six-Point Ceasefire Agreement-and in particular, defying the requirement that Russian forces withdraw to their ex ante positions.

Russia is, in effect, continuing its plan to ultimately annex these Georgian territories.

The presence of UN and OSCE monitoring missions has been unilaterally blocked by Russia. Russia also has refused to allow for the safe and dignified return of IDPs and refugees; meanwhile, those still living in Russian-occupied territories suffer from oppression. The ethnic cleansing of Georgians in the Russian-occupied territories continues.

Materials presented by the Government of Georgia to the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission

 

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