Thursday

2nd Apr 2020

EU-sponsored report says Georgia started 2008 war

  • The initial Georgian assault was illegal and disproportionate, the study said (Photo: Nir Nußbaum)

Georgia started the 2008 war with Russia by illegally attacking the town of Tskhinvali, a major EU-sponsored report has concluded.

"There is the question of whether the use of force by Georgia in South Ossetia, beginning with the shelling of Tskhinvali during the night of 7/8 August, was justifiable under international law. It was not," the study says.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

"The [EU-sponsored] mission is not in a position to consider as sufficiently substantiated the Georgian claim concerning a large-scale Russian military incursion into South Ossetia before 8 August 2008."

Georgia's use of multiple rocket launchers and heavy artillery in the Tskhinvali assault was neither necessary nor proportionate to repel alleged attacks by South Ossetian separatists, the report adds.

The 1,150-page long study is the culmination of nine months of work by a 20-strong team of legal and military experts based in Geneva and headed by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini.

EU member states last year launched and paid for the €1.6 million investigation. The independent survey comes atop nine previous reports into the conflict by other organs, including the UN, the US Congress and the British House of Lords.

Ms Tagliavini's study also heaped blame on Russia and on South Ossetian irregular forces.

It said Russia had the right to defend Russian peacekeeping soldiers stationed in Tskhinvali. But it described Russia's subsequent mass-scale incursion into Georgia as illegal and disproportionate.

"Much of the Russian action went beyond the reasonable limits of self-defence," it said. "Extended Russian military action reaching out into Georgia was conducted in violation of international law."

The Swiss report rejected Russia's claims that it was acting to protect Russian citizens in South Ossetia.

Russia's "passportisation" scheme of granting citizenship to thousands of South Ossetians in the run-up to the war was illegal and the people in question remained Georgian citizens, it said.

Russia also tolerated serious human rights abuses by Ossetian paramilitaries against ethnic Georgians in its sphere of command. The abuses included rapes, violent assaults and forced displacements amounting to "ethnic cleansing."

Ms Tagliavini's study painted an overall picture of a Vladimir Putin-era Russia trying to restore control over its former vassal state in a campaign of subversion and provocation lasting several years.

But she refused to apportion ultimate blame for the war on either side.

"Where lies the responsibility for all that has happened? Overall, the conflict is rooted in a profusion of causes comprising different layers in time and actions combined," the Swiss diplomat wrote. "They have all failed."

EU digests findings

Miss Tagliavini in Brussels on Wednesday (30 September) presented her findings to senior EU diplomats and the Russian and Georgian ambassadors to the union. The EU diplomats and the Swiss rapporteur also held a separate, behind-closed-doors discussion on the report.

The EU declined to make any political comment immediately after its publication, however.

"The EU hopes that its findings can contribute towards a better understanding of the origins and the course of last year's conflict and, in a broader perspective, serve as an input to future international efforts in the field of preventive diplomacy," it said in a statement.

The Swiss investigation also put some interesting numbers on the "five-day war."

Eight hundred and fifty people were killed in total, with 100,000 people displaced, 35,000 of whom still cannot go home.

Over 100 US military advisers were "reportedly" in Georgia on 7 August and "an even larger number of US specialists and advisors are thought to have been active in different branches of the Georgian power structures and administration," it said.

In Saudi Arabia, contacting the EU is a crime

Women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is facing trial. One of the allegations is contacting the EU delegation. Despite pressure from Brussels, Saudi Arabia remains unimpressed.

EU declares Africa 'most important' global partner

The European Commission has a new strategy for Africa. The proposal, whose details have yet to be worked out, spans broad issues like climate, energy, digital transformation, jobs, peace, governance, and migration.

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. Journalism hit hard by corona crisis
  2. EU fighting shortages and faulty medical supplies
  3. New EU navy operation to keep migrant details secret
  4. MEP: Constituents are our window into this tragedy
  5. Without European patriotism, EU decline is inevitable
  6. EU cancels April Fool's 'fake news'
  7. A coronavirus 'Marshall Plan' alone won't be nearly enough
  8. Trying to think straight about coronavirus

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us