Monday, September 8, 2008

Violations of the Six-Point Cease Fire Agreement by the Russian Federation

On August 15, 2008 President of Georgia signed the six-point cease-fire agreement mediated by President N. Sarkozy. A day later, the same document was signed by President Medvedev. President Sarkozy later issued a Communiqué in which he made public common vision of various provisions of the agreement, which he had previously shared with the signatory parties to achieve shared understanding of the document.

Despite numerous calls from international community, the ceasefire agreement has not yet been implemented by the Russian Federation, while Georgia continues to implement it in good faith, disregarding the provocations from the Russian Federation.

Provision of humanitarian assistance (Point 3)

Cease-fire agreement envisages that the parties should give free access to the humanitarian assistance towards those in need. Despite this, the Russian Federation’s armed forces have consistently blocked access of the humanitarian aid to the Tskhinvali region and villages around it. Several international organizations have complained about this.

Moreover, unarmed OSCE MMOs who are supposed to monitor the situation on the ground and report on a number of issues, including humanitarian needs, are not allowed into the Georgian villages south to the zone of conflict.

Withdrawal of the Russian military forces to the places of their permanent deployment (point 5)

Withdrawal of the Russian military forces to the positions prior to the outbreak of hostilities implies that they have to go back to the positions they held prior to August 6. This is the position reiterated by the European Union, United States and other members of international community, including Georgia. Unfortunately, Russian Federation has not yet fulfilled this provision. Reportedly, more than 10.000 troops are located in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region even today. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities the Russian Federation was supposed not to have any troops in either the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, or Abkhazia. In South Ossetia only a peacekeeping battalion of 500 (plus 300 reserves) was to be deployed, whereas in Abkhazia only up to 2.500-3.000 CIS peacekeepers were to be located. Currently the number of the Russian Federation’s military forces on the Georgian territory significantly exceeds margins allowed under the cease fire agreement.

To fully implement the provision in question, the Russian Federation has to withdraw its entire military (non-peacekeeping) contingent from the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and to immediately withdraw all forces from other parts of Georgia. Setting up military basis in these regions as intended by the Russian Federation also runs contrary to the provisions of the cease fire agreement.

Right of the Russian peacekeepers to implement additional security measures (Point 5)

Nature of the additional security measures:

The Russian Federation keeps claiming that, according to the six-point ceasefire agreement, it may establish permanent checkpoints, make dig-outs and conduct various activities as the ceasefire agreement envisages the implementation of additional security measures. Nevertheless the Communiqué issued and made public by the President of France states that the additional security measures "will take the form of patrols”, not any kind of permanent checkpoints. This is the common interpretation of the nature of additional security measures by the EU, US and Georgia.

However, the Russian Federation has already established 23 permanent checkpoints in various parts of Georgia, which is a clear and grave violation of the cease-fire agreement.

Geographic scope of the additional security measures:

In compliance with common understanding of territorial limits for the additional security measures to be implemented, their geographic scope is limited by the "area not further than a few kilometers, around Tskhinvali within the zone of conflict”. While the documents which have regulated the conflict are now defunct, the zone of conflict, however, was considered to be a 15-kilometer area around the center of Tskhinvali (Protocol of a JCC meeting of 12 July 1992). Therefore, any additional security measure that the Russian Federation may implement under the cease-fire agreement has to be limited to the zone under review. [1] In this regard it is absolutely unacceptable and unjustifiable to have Russian military forces stationed in Western Georgia, including such places as Poti and Senaki. Their presence in these areas is completely illegal and can not be explained. Same applies to Akhalgori region, which has always been administered by the central authorities of Georgia. Currently Akhalgori region is occupied by Russian military forces and Georgians are being expelled en masse. According to the ceasefire agreement Russian military troops also have to be withdrawn from Akhalgori region, as they have not been stationed there before and no additional security measures can be applied to this region.

Communiqué of the President of France states that the additional security measures can in no way”limit or jeopardize freedom of movement and traffic along the length of the major highways and railways of Georgia”. Russian soldiers are currently stationed in Western Georgia (Poti and Senaki) along the major highway, whereas in Eastern Georgia they are limiting freedom of movement towards Satchkhere, villages that are located north of Gori and Akhalgori. Russian soldiers frequently stop and search the cars.

Therefore, as there is no legal or political justification of the Russian presence outside of the zone of conflict, they have to withdraw from the occupied territories as soon as possible.

Until then core principle of the cease-fire agreement is being violated.

International mechanism, which substitutes additional security measures undertaken by the Russian peacekeepers (Point 5)

According to the ceasefire agreement "while awaiting an international mechanism, Russian peacekeeping forces will implement additional security measures”. It is a common understanding reflected in the above Communiqué that these measures "will have a provisional character while awaiting the establishment as quickly as possible of the "international mechanism” whose nature and mandate are still the subject of discussion by different international entities, in particular the OSCE, the European Union, and the United Nations”.

This means that as soon as the decision to deploy OSCE monitors, or to deploy the EU monitors in and around the zone of conflict is finalized, Russian peacekeepers will have to immediately cease implementing additional security measures in the conflict zone in South Ossetia. Currently, 20 OSCE MMOs are already in Georgia and have started to work, while EU is contemplating to send monitors. This means that the first step towards the creation of international mechanism has been taken. Negotiations on the mandate of additional 80 MMOs are still pending in the OSCE, whereas EU is still elaborating details of the deployment of 200 observers. As soon as either of the decisions is finalized, Russian forces will lose the right to implement "additional security measures”.

Opening of international discussions on security and stability modalities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Point 6)

According to the cease-fire agreement, the signatories agreed that international discussion was to be launched on the modalities of security and stability in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The President of the Russian Federation preempted all future discussions regarding the stability and security in Abkhazia and South Ossetia by unilaterally recognizing their independence. By doing so, Russian Federation acted contrary to the spirit and letter of the agreement.

[1] Russian Federation claims that its troops are located currently in the security zone (also referring to it as a buffer zone) around South Ossetia. There is not a single document which establishes the security zone, or a buffer zone around South Ossetia, therefore locating Russian troops in a self-proclaimed security zone is unacceptable and constitutes the occupation of Georgian territory. At various times Russian Federation justified its presence on the territory of Georgia by referring to the former so-called area of responsibility of the Joint Peacekeeping Forces as established by the 1999 JCC Protocol. This claim is irrelevant. Albeit in 1999 the lines of the area of responsibility were approved by the JCC, mandate of the peacekeeping force itself was not enhanced to operate in this area. Mandate of the JPKF was limited to the zone of conflict, whereas all the decisions to act within this zone were to be taken by the joint decision of the heads of the peacekeeping battalions from Georgian, (North-) Ossetian and Russian sides. Therefore, Russian claim to use 1999 JCC protocol to justify its presence on the territories well beyond the conflict zone is deprived of any legal ground and irrelevant.