Russia has asked the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for an inquiry into the findings of military observers stationed in Tskhinvali on the night of August 7-8, when South Ossetia's separatist capital was shelled by Georgian military forces. A Nov. 7 article in the New York Times described newly available accounts by three observers stationed in Tskhinvali for the OSCE, which has monitored the Georgia conflict since the 1990s.
The International Court of Justice Oct. 15 gave Georgia approval to open a suit charging Russia with a campaign of ethnic cleansing in and around the separatist enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The ruling was hailed by Georgia's attorneys as a defeat for Russia, which argued that the court lacks jurisdiction. The ICJ ordered both sides to refrain from discrimination and allow the free movement of civilians and humanitarian aid. (NYT, Oct. 16)
Georgia has formally protested the continuing presence of Russian troops in South Ossetia's Akhalgori district and Abkhazia's Kodori Gorge, both areas held by Georgian forces until the August war. Under the ceasefire terms, Russia is to withdraw to positions it held before the fighting broke out, but Moscow and Tbilisi are at odds as to whether this includes territories within the breakaway enclaves. "Akhalgori is within South Ossetia's borders, so the [ceasefire] plan does not cover it," Russian news agencies quoted Moscow's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Seven Russian soldiers were killed when a car exploded at their headquarters in separatist South Ossetia Oct. 3—the Russian army's first casualties in the region since the end of a five-day war with Georgia in August. "The latest terrorist acts in South Ossetia prove that Georgia has not renounced its policy of state terrorism," South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity told Russia's Vesti-24. "We have no doubt that these terrorist acts are the work of Georgian special forces." The blast came two days before Russian troops began withdrawing from the "buffer zone" in northern Georgia under EU supervision. (AP, Oct. 5; Bloomberg, Oct. 3)
A car bomb exploded in front of the Secret Services building early Sept. 25 in Sukhumi, the capital of the separatist Georgian enclave Abkhazia, shattering the windows and causing some structural damage but no casualties. The nearby Interior Ministry building and adjacent homes were also damaged. Yuri Ashuba, head of the Abkhazian Secret Services, attributed the attack to special units of the Georgian spy agency. In Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's capital, a 13-year-old boy was killed that same day when an explosive device detonated after he picked it up, the separatist government's official Web site reported. (NYT, AGI, Sept. 25)
Georgia on Sept. 2 formally broke diplomatic relations with Russia following its occupation of a "security zone" in the north of the country and its Aug. 26 recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent countries. (AFP, Sept. 2) Russia responded by accusing Georgia of mobilizing commando units near its border with South Ossetia. "According to our information, Georgian security forces are trying to restore their [military] presence in Georgian populated villages in South Ossetia," Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of Russia's General Staff, said. "With this aim, Georgia is mobilizing its special forces from the interior and defense ministries near the administrative border with South Ossetia." (RIA-Novosti, Sept. 2)
Georgia's Foreign Ministry said Aug. 16 that Russian-backed separatists in Abkhazia have seized 13 villages in Georgia and the Inguri hydropower plant. Russian army units and separatist forces shifted the border of breakaway Abkhazia toward the Inguri River, setting up a temporary administration in the seized villages. The power plant and most of the villages are in a buffer zone established by the 1994 UN-brokered ceasefire. The buffer zone stretches from Abkhazia's Gali region and Georgia's Zugdidi region, including a narrow strip between Abkhaz territory and the Inguri. Abkhazia's de facto president Sergei Bagapsh acknowledged the Abkhaz move into the buffer zone would violate the ceasefire terms, but asserted that Georgia was the first to break the truce. (AP, Aug. 16)
An Aug. 15 New York Times story, "Signs of Ethnic Attacks in Georgia Conflict," states: "The identities of the attackers vary, but a pattern of violence by ethnic Ossetians against ethnic Georgians is emerging and has been confirmed by some Russian authorities." It quotes Maj. Gen. Vyacheslav Nikolaevich Borisov, commander in charge of Russian-occupied Gori, as saying, "Now Ossetians are running around and killing poor Georgians in their enclaves." It also cites Human Rights Watch as saying it had "documented attacks by ethnic Ossetians in and around Tskhinvali." Yet the HRW press release on its report from Georgia also noted the "plight of ethnic Ossetian villagers who had fled Georgian soldiers"—a plight not mentioned by the Times. We hope HRW will write a letter to the Times calling the newspaper out on this critical omission.