Friday, 25 October 2013
Fence erected on Georgia-South Ossetia border
The village of Dvani, located on the administrative border between Georgia and the newly autonomous region of South Ossetia and home to around 1,000 people, has seen a number of protests in recent weeks over the erection of boundary fences by Russian forces. Other villages, such as Ditsi and Didi Khurvaleti, have also been affected by the dividing fences, which locals say amounts to a 'creeping borderisation' across Georgian territory that was not originally agreed upon following the 2008 Russia-Georgia War. The news has received much attention as Georgia's presidential elections approach this Sunday.
According to EU monitors, around 40km of barbed wire fencing has been erected along the 400km border, supported by intermittent pylons fitted with hi-tech surveillance equipment. At some junctures, the fence intersects properties, contiguous farmland and historical sites, including cemeteries. The majority of the work has been completed by Russia's army, appointed by South Ossetia to protect its borders as it did not have an independent force of its own.
Georgia's Foreigh Minister Maia Panjikidze last month said that the this provocative boundary demarcation amounts to “the illegal action of the Russian occupying forces”, a position supported by the EU's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, who has called on Russia to remove the fence. Moscow's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, has labelled T'bilisi's claims “propagandistic hysteria”, denying that Russian action violate international norms.
On 25 August 2008, Russia recognised the breakaway states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent after having supported local militant groups during the 2008 Russia-Georgia War, however, Georgia saw this as an annexation of its territory and formally cut all diplomatic ties with its northern neighbour. Ever since then, the boundary situation has been fluid and unsettled. Border outposts have been moved back and forth, and shooting incidents still occasionally occur. EU monitors have played a limited role in keeping the peace.