Ukraine, Georgia Denounce ‘Common Aggressor’ Russia, Pro-Russian Separatists
Former Soviet republics with pro-Western governments Ukraine and Georgia are going to coordinate their efforts to reclaim areas taken by pro-Russian separatists, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has declared on a visit to Georgia.
Poroshenko’s statement alongside his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Margvelashvili comes in the wake of Georgia’s complaint that Russian troops had secretly moved the border of the Russian-controlled Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia deeper into Georgia.
According to the Georgian authorities, the Russian troops moved the border posts some 300 meters deeper inside Georgia near the village of Bershueti, snatching illegally about 25 acres (10 hectares) of Georgian territory.
In March 2017, South Ossetia’s President declared that the breakaway region of Georgia whose independence has been recognized only by the Russian Federation and a handful of other states, wanted to be annexed by Russia.
In 2015 and 2016, there were several reports of Russian troops moving the South Ossetian border deeper into Georgia in what the Georgians call “creeping annexation” of their territory.
South Ossetia, which has a population of slightly over 50,000 and a territory of 4,000 square km (1,500 square miles), together with another breakaway Georgian region, Abkhazia, declared its independence from Georgia as a result of the six-day Russian-Georgian War in August 2008.
Independent South Ossetia has so far been recognized by Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Nauru, and is heavily dependent on Russian aid. Georgia, the West, and much of the rest of the international community consider it to be a Georgian region under Russian occupation.
Before the 2008 Russian-Georgian War, however, the South Ossetians first declared their independence in 1991, at the time when the former Soviet Union was breaking up. This lead to the 1991-92 South Ossetia War, which was ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire, establishing a Russian-Georgian-Ossetian peacekeeping force but nonetheless leaving the region divided.
Ethnic Ossetians also make up the majority of the population of the Republic of North Ossetia – Alania, which is located north of the Russian – Georgian/South Ossetian border, and is part of the Russian Federation.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Margvelashvili on Wednesday condemned what they said was occupation of parts of their respective countries by pro-Russian separatists.
Poroshenko referred to Russia as “our common aggressor”, as cited by the Associated Press.
He urged the international community to express its solidarity with Ukraine and Georgia, which have lost territories to Moscow-backed separatists.
The Ukrainian leader also said Ukraine and Georgia were going to coordinate their efforts to reclaim areas captured by pro-Russian separatists.
Poroshenko and his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Margvelashvili visited a village that is fenced off with barbed wire from the neighboring area, which is controlled by self-proclaimed South Ossetia.
South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Trasnistria (in Moldova), and Nagorno-Karabakh (disputed by Armenia and Azerbaijan) are known as frozen conflicts left over from the former Soviet Union.
Two more of those might be considered as having been added to the list following the 2014 Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and the ensuing pro-Russian insurgency in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass.
Georgia’s complaints that Russian forces have moved South Ossetia’s border deeper into Georgian territory comes at the same time as reports of 2,500 Russian troops massing close to NATO member states Estonia and Latvia.
The development also comes amid the ongoing standoff between the West and Russia over the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula back in 2014 – which Moscow claims to be “liberation”, and the ongoing pro-Russian insurgency in Ukraine’s Donbass region since the same year.
In the winter of 2013-2014, the Euromaidan Revolution in Kiev ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, and promised to bring Ukraine closer to the West, including through EU and N ATO membership.
In response, led by President Vladimir Putin, in February – March 2014, Russia occupied Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea, and then declared itself part of its territory after holding a referendum.
Shortly after Russia’s seizure of Crimea, a pro-Russian insurgency likely supported by Moscow began in the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine.
Since then, the war in Ukraine has claimed some 10,000 lives, and has displaced millions of people.
The US, the EU, and other Western nations have imposed sanctions on Russia over both the annexation of the Crimea and the insurgency in Ukraine’s Donbass which the West deems to be instigated and supported by Moscow.
Top Russian officials recently told the West to “stop obsessing” over the Crimea, and kept denying Moscow’s involvement in the war in Donbass.
In June 2017, the US imposed new sanctions against Russia, according to Moscow – a “pointless” move. Also in June 2017, the EU renewed one its three sets of sanctions against Russia over the seizing of Crimea and the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine. The EU extended its third set of sanctions against Russia earlier this month, after renewing another set back in March.
Ivan Dikov, the founder of HeartlandHinterland.com, is the author of the book “Ugly Bargain: How the European Union and Bulgaria’s Post-Communist Oligarchy Fit Together“, among other books.