Russia Absorbs Military Units of Breakaway Abkhazia

Individual units of the Armed Forces in the Republic of South Ossetia, Georgia’s breakaway region, will join the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

The “Interagency Agreement” between the two sides was signed by Russia’s Defense Minister, Army General Sergei Shoigu, and the Defense Minister of South Ossetia, Lieutenant-General Ibrahim Gasseev, in Moscow on March 31.

South Ossetian state news agency PEC reports that the Agreement was signed in accordance with the “Treaty of Alliance and Integration” between the Russian Federation and the Republic of South Ossetia, which was signed on March 18, 2015.

The two groups also signed an agreement to cooperate on a courier-postal service.

Russian Defense Minister Shoigu highlighted that the 4th Russian military base is located on the territory of South Ossetia to “ensure the security of the republic and southern borders of Russia.”

Gasseev thanked Russia and its Armed Forces for assisting South Ossetia and for “maintaining peace and stability.”

Under the agreement, the integration of South Ossetian units into the Russian Armed Forces involves recruiting citizens for military service in the Russian Armed Forces and sending them to Russian military bases to prepare for active duty. The deal allows the Russian military to recruit South Ossetian soldiers as contractors after they have been dismissed from active duty in South Ossetia. The treaty also envisages the promotion of social, economic, humanitarian and foreign affairs, and defense and security cooperation between the two areas. It includes forming a common defense and security space between Russia and South Ossetia.

Officials in Tbilisi consider the treaty illegitimate.

Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) released a statement condemning the signature of the military deal, saying it represents another step towards the annexation of the Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Tskhinvali) regions by Russia, disregarding the fundamental principles and norms of international law.

“This provocative step and unambiguous aggression against Georgian statehood on the part of the Russian Federation is directed towards destabilization of the situation in the region and the ultimate destruction of the European security system. In this way, the Russian Federation is seriously harming the Geneva International Discussions and is intentionally obstructing any potential progress in the peace process,” the statement of the MFA reads.

The Georgian government believes that considering the integration of Georgia’s occupied regions into the military system of the Russian Federation, it is disturbing that Moscow declines the non-use of force commitment and impedes the creation of international security arrangements in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali regions. The MFA is calling on the Russian Federation to desist from this practice of provocative actions, to comply with the provisions of the 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, and to withdraw its military units from the territory of Georgia.

“We appeal to the international community to duly assess the aggressive steps by the Russian Federation and take the necessary measures in order to effectively react to the situation in Georgia’s occupied regions,” Georgia’s Foreign Ministry stated.

South Ossetia broke away from Georgia during a war in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In August 2008, Russia sent troops to the region, ostensibly to protect civilians in South Ossetia from attack by Georgian forces. After a brief war, Russia occupied 20 percent of Georgian territories and recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. Only Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru recognize the occupied regions of Georgia as independent states. The remainder of the international community called on Russia to duly fulfill its obligations under the ceasefire agreement, withdraw its troops, and reverse its recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions.

Thea Morrison

03 April 2017 20:30