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On the Occasion of the Five-year Anniversary of the Russian-Georgian War: Is Georgia Occupied?

Published on October 1, 2013        Author: 

natia kalandarishviliNatia Kalandarishvili-Mueller is a Lecturer in Humanitarian Law at Tbilisi State University, Institute of International Law, Faculty of Law, and a PhD Candidate at the University of Essex, School of Law.


Five years have passed since war broke out between Russia and Georgia. The Independent International Fact Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia, established by the Council of the EU by decision of 2 December 2008, found that:

“On the night of 7 to 8 August 2008, a sustained Georgian artillery attack struck the town of Tskhinvali. Other movements of the Georgian armed forces targeting Tskhinvali and the surrounding areas were under way, and soon the fighting involved Russian, South Ossetian and Abkhaz military units and armed elements. It did not take long, however, before the Georgian advance into South Ossetia was stopped. In a counter-movement, Russian armed forces, covered by air strikes and by elements of its Black Sea fleet, penetrated deep into Georgia, cutting across the country’s main east-west road, reaching the port of Poti and stopping short of Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi […] After five days of fighting, a ceasefire agreement was negotiated on 12 August 2008 between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and French President Nicolas Sarkozy…”. (pp. 10-11 of the Report)

However, the Russian Federation appears to be in violation of Point 5 of the Sarkozy peace plan, which had stipulated “the withdrawal of Russian military forces to the lines they held before hostilities broke out…”. What is more, on 26 August 2008 Russia recognized the independence and sovereignty of Georgia’s two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

This post examines the validity of Georgia’s contention that 20 percent of its territory is occupied by Russia. I first discuss the parties’ opposing positions and then assess the facts in light of the applicable law on military occupation. Read the rest of this entry…