Hundreds in Moscow attended the funeral Jan. 23 of Anastasia Baburova, the 25-year-old journalist killed as she tried to defend human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov when a masked gunman shot him at point-blank range in broad daylight on a busy Moscow street this week. The two had just emerged from a press conference, in which Markelov had said he would appeal the early release of the killer of a Chechen girl, raped and murdered by a Russian army colonel during the war in Chechnya. (RFE/RL, Reuters, Jan. 23)
Both Russia and Georgia share blame for an "indiscriminate and disproportionate" use of force that violated humanitarian law during their August 2008 war, Human Rights Watch announced on Jan. 23. In a 200-page report, the watchdog group also took South Ossetian separatist forces to task for allegedly attempting to "ethnically cleanse" ethnic Georgian villages within the enclave. The report calls for individual "prosecution of war crimes where appropriate." "The violations by one side of the laws of war do not justify or excuse violations by the other side," said Human Rights Watch director Carroll Bogert said at a Tbilisi press conference.
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)