By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
TBILISI, Georgia – The status of the two South Caucasus regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remains uncertain as the region marked the one-year anniversary of Russia’s recognition of the breakaway regions’ independence on August 26.
Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s independence from Georgia on August 26, 2008, two weeks after intense fighting between Georgian military forces and separatists from the two regions, with support from the Russian military. Abkhazia and South Ossetia have traditionally been ethnically mixed. It is home both to those who claim Russian cultural identities as well as those who have cultural ties to Georgia.
International observers say that Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain in a legal gray zone: Russia and Nicaragua remain the only two countries to recognize their independence. They are a de facto part of Russia while remaining a de jure part of Georgia, though political power in the provinces is steadily slipping out of Georgia’s control and into that of Russia.
Some experts speculate the situation may remain unresolved for the foreseeable future. The situation is akin to situations in Cyprus and Taiwan. On August 26, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said that Russia’s decision to recognize the breakaway provinces’ independence was “unavoidable” and “irreversible.” It seems equally unlikely that policies of non-recognition by the European Union and the United States will shift.
The situation has caused uncertainty for those living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia has attempted to establish a naval blockade around the area, threatening to arrest anyone who enters either area without Georgian permission. Russia has also staked an economic claim to the area, as the Russian state oil company set up a subsidiary in Abkhazia on August 25. The Georgian government has accused Russia of exploiting its sovereign natural resources, as well as unlawfully continuing its occupation of Georgian soil. For its part, Russia has pledged its support for the reconstruction in the breakaway regions.
For more information, please see:
Georgia Today – Kremlin’s Victory or Confession – 28 August 2009
China View – Putin Pledges Firm Support for South Ossetia, Abkhazia – 27 August 2009
The Messenger Online – Russia is Continuing its Occupation of Georgia – 27 August 2009
Anti War.com – South Ossetia, Abkhazia to Celebrate Independence Day – 25 August 2009
Radio Free Europe – One Year After ‘Independence,’ Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Legal Gray Zone – 25 August 2009
Sofia News Agency – Russia: South Ossetia, Abkhazia Independence Irreversible 1 Year Later – 25 August 2009