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MOSCOW, August 8 (Itar-Tass) - Russia’s recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the rupture of Russian-Georgian diplomatic relations are the main outcome of the five-day armed conflict in the North Caucasus. Today is the fifth anniversary of the conflict. A blitzkrieg launched by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili against South Ossetia killed 1,500 peaceful civilians and 71 Russian peacekeepers. A total of 340 servicemen of the Russian peacekeeping contingent were wounded. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, over 118,000 people were forced to flee their homes.
Mourning ceremonies were held in Tskhinval to pay tribute to people who had died as a result of artillery and tank bombardment. After the USSR collapse in 1992 South Ossetia proclaimed its independence. But Georgia could not accept this and made an armed attack on the republic, which was part of Georgia. On August 8, 2008 Then-President Dmitry Medvedev took a decision to conduct an operation for coercing Georgia to peace. On the eve of the 5th anniversary of the conflict Medvedev, who is currently Russia’s premier, told Rustavi 2 TV Channel that his measures, which had been taken in August 2008, were right.
Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee deputy chairman Andrei Klimov told Itar-Tass: “Russia was forced to prevent Georgia’s aggression against the population of the small republic. The drenching fire against peaceful civilians is an act of genocide. Five years ago I explained this position in the European Parliament and found understanding.” Klimov believes that several generations face the consequences of such conflicts: “Russia and Georgia are forced to search for ways to bring closer their interests, but it will take decades to achieve the goal”.
Member of the Public Chamber, political scientist Sergei Markov told Itar-Tass that the Russian authorities could not do the other way. “If Russia did not interfere in the armed conflict, repressions, ethic cleansings and genocide could start against Russia-friendly citizens, and the world community would consider Russia a poor player, which is unable to defend its allies.” In addition, Markov said, “The Russian-Georgian conflict prevented the growth of terrorism in the North Caucasus because documents proved militants’ training bases on the territory of Georgia.”
Markov names Russia’s recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia absolutely right. “Mikhail Saakashvili terminated an agreement with the Kremlin on the unilateral basis to deploy the Russian peacekeeping contingent in South Ossetia. Moscow could not abandon the population of the republic where a lot of people with Russian citizenship live. Putin and Medvedev are lawyers. They realized that they protected the rights of Russian citizens.”
Russian diplomat Anatoly Adamishin shared Markov’s view on Russia’s interference in the Caucasian conflict. He said: “Moscow did right by repelling Saakashvili’s aggression.” However, Adamishin believes that the recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was wrong. In an interview with Itar-Tass, he said: “Georgia lost 20 percent of its territory. This is like an amputation. Georgia’s wound has never healed up.” At the same time, he said relations between Russia and Georgia were improving. “The tactic of small steps will be rather positive for each other,” Adamishin added.
He thinks that the European community is indifferent what status South Ossetia and Abkhazia will have. “The pragmatic approach prevails in this aspect. The situation reminds us of 1939’s-1940’s when the United States did not recognize, de jure, the annexation of the Baltic States by the Soviet Union in the face of their de facto extinction under the Soviet rule.”
Nadezhda Arbatova from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Itar-Tass that there was a positive tendency in relations between Russia and the new Georgian leadership. She believes, “The position by Mikhail Saakashvili, who criticized Russia, was the main reason for aggravating relations between Moscow and Tbilisi. New political forces came to power in Georgia and this creates conditions for normalizing relations. The resumption of Georgian wines and mineral water supplies is a good sign.”