Question: How would you assess the comment of the Russian Foreign Ministry regarding the implementation of the ceasefire agreement reached through the mediation efforts of the President of France?
Answer: First of all, it needs to be emphasized that contrary to the Russian side’s claim there is no document titled ‘Medvedev-Sarkoz’ plan or initiative. There applies a six-point ceasefire agreement, which French President Sarkozy offered to Russia and Georgia and which was signed by the President of Georgia on 15 August 2008 and by the President of Russia on 16 August.
Given the Russian Federation’s large-scale military aggression against Georgia, occupation of an important part of its sovereign territory and mass ethnic cleansing conducted there, Russia’s attempts to mislead the international community and its own population and justify illegal acts committed in Georgia come as no surprise to anyone.
The Russian Foreign Ministry claims that the Ceasefire Agreement’s first paragraph on the non-use of force concerns ‘first of all the Georgian Authorities’. This claim, however, is only a product of the Russian side’s wrong interpretation. Neither the Ceasefire Agreement nor President Sarkozy’s explanations give any such definition. Provision on the non-use of force applies to and is equally binding on both, rather than either, of the parties to the conflict – Russia and Georgia. We’d like to remind the Russian side that it was the Russian Federation that continued to violate ceasefire within a number of days from the signing of the ceasefire agreement. Georgia, in the meantime, unilaterally announced ceasefire on 10 August and transmitted a respective official note to the Russian Federation. We remain committed to our obligations.
Another principle regarding abstinence from military actions was also subject to violation for several days by the Russian Federation, despite President Medvedev’s statement of 12 August on termination of military actions. Russian troops remain stationed on the occupied territories of Georgia – not only in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region but also outside the conflict zones. Moreover, Russia is planning to deploy military bases in the Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia. Against such background, the Russian side’s demagoguery ‘accusations’ concerning the threat of Georgia’s militarization served the only purpose of showing to the international community how much ‘consistently’ Russia is complying with its treaty commitments.
The Russian Federation is also in systematic violation of the third paragraph of the Ceasefire Agreement envisaging unhindered access of humanitarian cargoes to the Tskhinvali region. The international organizations concerned have confirmed repeatedly that Russian troops are barring them from entering the Tskhinvali region and distributing humanitarian aid there. It should also be noted that as a result of Russia-masterminded ethnic cleansing in the Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia, which is still underway, tens of thousands of Georgian citizens were forced to leave their places of residence under direct threat from the part of Russian servicemen and illegal armed gangs. The international non-governmental organization HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH has confirmed repeatedly in its reports that Russian servicemen deny Georgians access to their homes.
Also groundless is the Russian Federation’s accusations against the Georgian Authorities concerning violation of the fourth principle. Georgian troops returned to the places of their permanent deployment before the French President-initiated ceasefire agreement was signed. And this return took place despite the fact that Russian troops robbed and inflicted heavy damage on the military bases in Gori and Senaki. Not a single military unit of the Georgian armed forces is presently stationed outside the place of its permanent deployment. The Russian side stubbornly keeps turning the blind eye to that. There is however one point on which we would agree with the Russian side – it concerns activation of the role of an international observer mission in Georgia. To put an end to the Russian side’s speculations is only possible through an effective international monitoring.
The Russian side’s statements with respect to the fifth principle contain mutually exclusive claims. On the one hand, the Russian side claims that it has concluded withdrawal of its troops from the territory of Georgia to the positions that existed prior to the war. However, it becomes known that a certain contingent of Russian troops still remain in the Tskhinvali region allegedly on request of the so-called ‘South Ossetian leadership’. It is a widely known fact that not a single paragraph of the Ceasefire Agreement envisages leaving any division of Russian troops on the territory of Georgia, except for a contingent designed for ‘temporary security measures’. It is interesting to note that over 17 000 Russian servicemen are currently stationed in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region, based on the reliable information available to the Georgian side.
According to the Ceasefire Agreement, ‘temporary measures of security’ envisage patrolling in a radius of a few kilometers around Tskhinvali without the right to set up permanent checkpoints. The actual state of affairs, however, is that there are 23 illegal checkpoints functioning outside Abkhazia and South Ossetia staffed by 1000 Russian servicemen.
It also proceeds from the Russian side’s statements that they have defined a so-called ‘security zone around South Ossetia’ that has never been agreed between the sides. Nor the Ceasefire Agreement envisages creation of any such zone.
Totally unacceptable are the Russian side’s speculations with respect to the sixth point of the Ceasefire Agreement. By unleashing a large-scale military aggression against Georgia and occupation of its territories, the Russian side has itself disrupted all the agreements that used to regulate peacekeeping processes in both Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region prior to the breakout of the war. Georgia was forced to assert this new reality and repeal these agreements formally.
After conclusion of ‘temporary measures of security’ envisaged by the Ceasefire Agreement, there can be no talk about continuation of any form of Russian armed presence on the territory of Georgia.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia calls on the Russian side to comply in good faith with the commitments undertaken before the international community, abstain from the use of hostile and inflammatory rhetoric and resort to the practice of resolving matters in a civilized way.
Through the use of the illegal Abkhaz and Tskhinvali regimes, employment of ethnic cleansing and misinformation as an instrument of foreign policy and the rhetoric aimed at misleading the international community, the Russian side is trying absolutely illegally to maintain its military presence on the territory of Georgia, continue invading a large part of the sovereign territory, legalize the consequences of the ethnic cleansing and thus inflict maximum damage on the development of the Georgian State.