Georgia Condemns Russia’s Integration of South Ossetia Militias
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, November 30(TBILISI)—The Georgian government has strongly condemned a move by Russia to officially integrate the secessionist militias who operate in Georgia’s Moscow-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia into the Russian Armed Forces.
Tbilisi’s Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze said that the move by the Kremlin is a flagrant violation of all international law.
"It is yet another step towards (Russia’s) annexation of Georgia’s occupied regions,” Janelidze said in reference to both South Ossetia and the country’s other Moscow-backed rebel republic, Abkhazia, on the Black Sea coast.
Janelidze urged the international community offer a strong reaction to Russia’s move and, once again, demanded that Moscow immediately remove its troops from Georgia’s soil.
"It is important that Russia’s occupation troops leave Georgian sovereign territory to create the framework for a peaceful resolution to this conflict,” said Janelidze.
The Russian government supported the decision to merge the troops on November 28.
In recent years, the State Duma - Russia’s parliament – has ratified agreements on closer military cooperation with both Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
In what has become a hallmark of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s current term in office, the Kremlin has taken aggressive efforts to exert its power over several key areas in the post-Soviet space. In addition to signing mutual defense initiatives with breakaway regions that it supports in both Georgia and Moldova, Russia has also invaded and illegally annexed regions of Ukraine that it considers part of its historical “sphere of influence”.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia have operated outside of Tbilisi’s control since the early 1990s.
With Moscow’s military and financial support, the two regions broke away from the rest of the country after routing Georgian troops in two vicious wars between 1991-1993.
In the wake of the August 2008 Russian-Georgian War, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru joined their close ally Moscow in recognizing the regions as independent republics.
Russia continues to maintain a massive military presence in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, with tens of thousands of troops stationed in each region as part of an occupation force that controls one quarter of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory.