Timeline of events War

2008 South Ossetia war

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2008 South Ossetia war
Part of Georgian-Ossetian conflict
and Georgian-Abkhazian conflict

Location of Georgia (including the de facto independent provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia) and the Russian part of North Caucasus
Date 7 August 2008
Location Georgia
Result Ceasefire currently in effect
Belligerents
Flag of Russia Russia
Separatist Republics:
Flag of South Ossetia South Ossetia
Flag of Abkhazia Abkhazia
Flag of Georgia (country) Georgia
Commanders
Flag of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity
Flag of Russia Anatoly Khrulyov
Flag of Russia Vladimir Shamanov
Flag of Russia Marat Kulakhmetov
Flag of Russia Vyacheslav Borisov
Flag of Russia Sulim Yamadayev
Flag of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh
Flag of Georgia (country) Davit Kezerashvili
Flag of Georgia (country) Zaza Gogava
Flag of Georgia (country) Mamuka Kurashvili
Strength
Flag of South Ossetia 3,000 men and 15,000 reservists;[1][2] unknown number of volunteers
Flag of Russia Est. at least 15,000 regulars in Georgia (as of 13/07/08),[3]
Flag of Abkhazia 5,000 not including reservists;[4] unknown number of volunteers

More than 38,000 total
Flag of Georgia (country) 17,500 regulars,[5] including 2,000 initially in Iraq; 250,000 conscripted reservists and volunteers;[6] unknown number of Georgian Police deployed in the conflict zone
Flag of the United States at least 2 men, possibly mercenaries, operating under USA flag [7][8]
Flag of Ukraine Unknown number crewing tanks [9]

At least 37,000 total
Casualties and losses
Confirmed by Russia:
Flag of South Ossetia 133 civilians

Flag of Russia 64 soldiers killed, 323 wounded[10]
Unknown number of losses among the volunteers
Flag of Abkhazia Unknown


Georgian estimate:
400 Russian regulars killed[11]
Confirmed by Georgia:
215 killed and 300 missing.[12][13]


Unofficial Russian estimate:
4,000 casualties[11]
Georgian President Saakashvili estimated 1500 killed [14], South Ossetian authorities later estimated 1,492 Ossetians killed[15] So far, only 133 of the dead have been identified, since so many were burried in makeshift graves[16]
At least 158,000 civilians displaced[17] (including 56,000 from Gori, Georgia and 15,000 South Ossetian Georgians per UNHCR).[18][19]
Estimate by Georgian Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs: at least 230,000.[20]
Displaced from South Ossetia to Russia: Russian estimate, 30,000; HRW estimate, 24,000. As many as half may have returned as armed volunteers.[21][22]

The 2008 South Ossetia War was a land, sea and air war fought between the Republic of Georgia, on one side, and the separatist regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and the Russian Federation, on the other. Ongoing occasional skirmishes were reported to have escalated to a war early in the morning of 7 August, 2008, with an attack by Georgia into its break-away province of South Ossetia. The following day Russian forces attacked Georgian units in South Ossetia and subsequently moved farther into mainland Georgia.

A preliminary ceasefire was signed by Georgia and Russia on 15 August, 2008. The Russian military has announced a ten-day withdrawal from advance positions, while Georgian authorities have expressed discontent with the rate and extent of the pull-back, and with the continuing Russian presence in port of Poti.

The number of refugees from South Ossetia fleeing into Russia reached an estimated 30,000 of the 70,000 overall population. Meanwhile by 18 August, about 68,000 ethnic Georgians had fled their homes due to the conflict.[23]

Contents

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Background

Ossetians live in North and South Ossetia, as well as in central Georgia.

Ethnic map of the Caucasus from 1995: Ossetians live in North and South Ossetia, as well as in central Georgia.

See also: Georgian-Ossetian conflict, South Ossetian independence referendum, 2006, and 2008 Georgia-Russia crisis

The Ossetians are a distinct Iranian ethnic group whose origin lies along the Don River. They came to the Caucasus after being driven out of their homeland in the Mongol invasions of the 13th century. Some clans settled in the territory now known as North Ossetia-Alania (currently part of Russia), and South Ossetia (currently part of Georgia).[24]

South Ossetia, which has a Georgian ethnic minority of around one fifth (14,000) of the total population (70,000),[25] broke away from Georgia in the 1991–1992 war (in which more than 2,000 people are believed to have died[26]). Russian as well as Georgian and Southossetian peacekeepers were then stationed in South Ossetia under OSCE mandate and monitoring.[27] The 1992 ceasefire also defined both a zone of conflict around the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali and a security corridor along the border of South Ossetian territories.[27] In a 2006 South Ossetian independence referendum, held by the secessionist government, full independence was supported by 99% of the voters. Georgia accuses Russia of the annexation of its internationally recognized territory and installing a puppet government led by Eduard Kokoity and several officials who previously served in the Russian FSB and Army.[28][29][30][31] Restoring South Ossetia and Abkhazia (a region with a similar separatist movement) to Georgian control has been a goal of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili since the Rose Revolution.[32]

According to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, 90% of South Ossetians possess Russian passports and thereby qualify for protection under article 80 of the Russian constitution.[33][34][not in citation given] Reuters describes the South Ossetian separatist government as « dependent on Russia, » which « supplies two thirds of their annual budget, » and reports that « Russia’s state-controlled gas giant Gazprom is building new gas pipelines and infrastructure » worth hundreds of millions of dollars there.[35]

Timeline of events

  • August 1 – Late evening, intense fighting began between Georgian troops and the forces of South Ossetia. Georgia claimed that South Ossetian separatists had shelled Georgian villages in violation of a ceasefire. South Ossetia denied provoking the conflict.[36]
  • August 2 – South Ossetians started to evacuate into Russia.
  • August 5 – Russian ambassador Yuri Popov warned that Russia would intervene if conflict erupted.[37][38] Dmitry Medoyev, a Southossetian presidential envoy, declared in Moscow: « Volunteers are arriving already, primarily from North Ossetia » in Southossetia. [39] [40]
  • August 7 – President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered Georgian troops to cease fire.[41][42]
    Despite the declared ceasefire, fighting intensified.[43][44] Hours after the declaration of the ceasefire, in a televised address, Mikheil Saakashvili vowed to restore Tbilisi’s control over what he called the « criminal regime » in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and reinforce order.[44]
    During the night and early morning, Georgia launched a military offensive to surround and capture the capital of separatist Republic of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali [45] thus breaking the terms of the 1992 ceasefire and crossing into the security zone established therein[27]. The heavy shelling, which included Georgian rockets being fired into South Ossetia[46] left parts of the capital city in ruins, causing a humanitarian crisis which Russian government sources claimed amounted to genocide. The news of the shelling was extensively covered by Russian media prior to the military reaction that followed, as Russia claimed to have responded in defense of South Ossetians against what they called « a genocide by Georgian forces. »[47] Russia claimed up to 2,000 dead in Tskhinvali following the shelling.[48] The extent of civilian casualties was later disputed in a number of sources.[49] President Saakashvili later claimed that the Russian side has deployed tanks into the disputed region before he gave the order for Georgian forces to attack.[50] At Russia’s request, the United Nations Security Council held consultations on 7 August at 11pm (US EST time), followed by an open meeting at 1.15am (US EST time) on 8 August, with Georgia attending. During consultations, Council members discussed a press statement that called for an end to hostilities. They were unable, however, to come to a consensus.[51]
  • August 8 – In the morning, Georgia announced that it had surrounded the city and captured eight South Ossetian villages.[52] An independent Georgian TV station announced that Georgian military took control of the city[53]
    Russia sent troops across the Georgian border, into South Ossetia. In five days of fighting, the Russian forces captured the regional capital Tskhinvali, pushed back Georgian troops, and largely destroyed Georgia’s military infrastructure using airstrikes deep inside the smaller country’s territory.[54]

    Simplified map of the war

    Simplified map of the war

  • 9 August – An action in the Black Sea off Abkhazia resulted in one Georgian missile boat being sunk by the Russian Navy. The Russians claimed that the Georgian ships entered the security zone of the Russian war ships, and the action of the Russian Navy was in accordance with international law. After the skirmish, the remaining Georgian ships fled in defeat.
    a second front was opened by the military of the Georgia’s separatist Republic of Abkhazia in the Kodori Valley, the only region of Abkhazia that was, before the war began, still in effective control of Georgian loyalists.
    Most international observers began calling for a peaceful solution to the conflict.[55] The European Union and the United States expressed a willingness to send a joint delegation to try and negotiate a cease-fire.[56]
  • August 11 – Russia ruled out peace talks with Georgia until the latter withdrew from South Ossetia and signed a legally binding pact renouncing the use of force against South Ossetia and Abkhazia.[57]
    On that night, Russian paratroopers deployed in Abkhazia carried out raids deep inside Georgian territory to destroy military bases from where Georgia could send reinforcements to its troops sealed off in South Ossetia. Russian forces entered and left the military base near the town of Senaki outside Abkhazia on the 11th, leaving the base there destroyed.[58] Gori was shelled and bombed by the Russians as the Georgian military and most of residents of the Gori District fled.[59][60][61]Since Gori is along Georgia’s main highway, its occupation by Russian forces, combined with destruction of a railway bridge, cut Georgia’s lines of communication and logistics in two.
    In the opinion of the independent Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, « Russia’s invasion of Georgia had been planned in advance, with the final political decision to complete the preparations and start war in August apparently having been made back in April. »[62] A US Defense official said that there was no obvious buildup of Russian forces along the border that signaled an intention to invade.[63]
  • August 12 – Russian President Medvedev said that he had ordered an end to military operations in Georgia.[64] Later on the same day, Russian president Medvedev approved a six-point peace plan brokered by President-in-Office of the European Union, Nicolas Sarkozy, in Moscow; both sides were to sign it by the 17th.[65]
    Russian troops drove through the port of Poti, and took up positions around it.[66]
  • August 13 – All of the remaining Georgian forces, including at least 1,500 civilians in the Kodori Valley, had retreated to Georgia proper.[67][68]
    Russian tanks were seen at Gori. Russian troops were seen on the road from Gori to Tbilisi, but turned off to the north, about an hour from Tbilisi, and encamped. Georgian troops occupied the road six miles (about 10 km) closer to Tbilisi.[69][70]
  • 14 August – Efforts to institute joint patrols of Georgian and Russian police in Gori broke down due to apparent discord among personnel.[71][72][73]
  • August 15 – Reuters stated that Russian forces had pushed to 34 miles (55 km) from Tbilisi, the closest during the war; they stopped in Igoeti 41°59′22″N, 44°25′04″E, an important crossroads. According to the report, 17 APCs and 200 soldiers, including snipers, participated in the advance; the convoy included a military ambulance, and initially, three helicopters.[citation needed] A Reuters witness said the Russian military convoy advanced to within 55 km (34 miles) of Tbilisi on Friday. That day, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also traveled to Tbilisi, where Saakashvili signed the 6-point peace plan in her presence.[74][75]
  • 16 August – The Russians had occupied Poti, as well as military bases in Gori and Senaki.[76][77]
  • August 17 – the BBC‘s Richard Galpin, who has spent the past two days travelling from the Black Sea port of Poti to Tbilisi, says Georgian forces seem to be surrendering control of the highway to the Russians.[78] According to BBC‘s Gabriel Gatehouse, there is a « much-reduced » Russian military presence in Gori and lorries can be seen delivering humanitarian aid. But he says Russian soldiers still control the town’s key entry and exit points.[79]
    Referring to a major ground exercise Russia held in July, just north of Georgia’s border, Dale Herspring (an expert on Russian military affairs at Kansas State University) described Russia’s intervention as being « exactly what they executed in Georgia just a few weeks later… a complete dress rehearsal ».[80]
  • August 19 – The Russian forces in Poti took prisoner 21 Georgian troops who had approached the city. They were taken to a Russian base at Senaki; there is dispute whether they were later released.[81]
    Some Russian armor left Gori for an uncertain destination.[82] On the same day, Russian and Georgian forces exchanged prisoners of war. Georgia said it handed over 5 Russian servicemen, in exchange for 15 Georgians, including two civilians.[83]
  • August 22 – At least 40 Russian armored personnel carriers left Gori; other Russian troops remained in Georgia proper and dug in [84] the outskirts of Poti with a checkpoint manned by 20 men on the main road, while a Reuters reporter apparently saw a checkpoint in Karaleti 6 km north of Gori.[85] At a news conference Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn insisted « These patrols were envisaged in the international agreement, Poti is outside of the security zone, but that does not mean we will sit behind a fence watching them riding around in Hummers. »[86] President Sarkozy thanked President Medvedev for fulfilling commitments concerning the withdrawal of Russian troops. While stressing the importance of early withdrawal of Russian military presence on the axis Poti / Senaki. [87]
  • August 23 – Russia declared the withdrawal of its forces to lines it asserted fulfilled the six points: into Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and the « security corridor » around South Ossetia. The bulk of its forces left Georgian soil altogether; on the other hand, checkpoints remained on the main road from Tbilisi to Poti where it passed within 8 kilometers of South Ossetia; two Russian outposts remained outside Poti. [88]

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