Since the war in Georgia this summer and the declaration of independence by South Ossetia and Abkhazia, there has been a lot in the Russian news about events in these areas. We’ve seen the newly-appointed Russian ambassador to Abkhazia show us around the planned site for the Russian embassy, the tangerine farmers from towns along the Russian border queuing to daily cross the border to sell their harvest for a better price (a terrible daily wait to pass customs – wouldn’t it just be easier if Abkhazia and Russia just… shh, don’t say it!), the rebuilding of the ruins of Tskhinvali, capital of South Ossetia, courtesy of the Russian taxpayer. With the amount of news coverage that has been dedicated to these two regions, one could perhaps be forgiven for thinking that they were already another part of Russia. A new threat from Georgia might be the last push needed for Abkhazia and South Ossetia to finally unite with Russia. Such a threat might arise in the very near future if we were to judge by the article below, published on 28th December in “Kommersant”.
The Ministry of Defence of South Ossetia has issued a statement claiming that Georgia is amassing military equipment along its border with the state. Georgian armoured personnel carriers have been sighted in the village of Nikozi, situated in the immediate vicinity of the border with Ossetia. Georgia has claimed that the tanks in the Tskinvali region are needed to monitor the situation in the area and that EU observers have already been informed of this.
According to the Ministry of Defence there are now 28 tanks situated in the town of Gori, where Georgian tank battalions are based. There are now also “Cobra” armoured police vehicles in villages in the Tskinvali region. The Georgian Home Office has confirmed these claims, stating that EU observers have already been informed. According to Shota Utiashvili, head of the Georgian Home Office Department for Analytics, the vehicles are being used for patrols and monitoring.
On the 22nd December the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe announced its decision to withdraw its observation mission from Georgia by the 1st of January 2009. At the same time, the deputy head of the Central Command of Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Lieutenant General Anatoli Nogovitsyn noted that a new military undertaking by Georgia against South Ossetia and Abkhazia could not be ruled out. According to the lieutenant, this would be possible should Georgia restore its military potential with the help of NATO.
“That Georgia is amassing military equipment close to its borders with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, indicates that her leaders have not renounced their plans and intentions of restoring at any price the so called “constitutional order” in these newly independent countries and restoring Georgia’s territorial integrity that was lost as a result of the August war”, claimed Nogovitsyn. He has indicated however, that it was unlikely that Georgia would “again undertake such a wide-scale military operation against South Ossetia and Abkhazia, after Russian soldiers and officers had crushed the Georgian Army.” In Nogovitsyn’s opinion, “if Tbilisi decides to go for all-or-nothing (to restore the situation to its pre-war status) then they would most likely resort to some kind of secret military operation led by the Georgian army and special task forces.”