Georgia marks 11 years since the August War with Russia
On August 7-8, state flags were lowered over all buildings of government buildings in Georgia.
Georgia marks the 11th anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war. Events organized by authorities and community activists being are held throughout the country.
At a ceremony that was held at the president’s residence on Atoneli Street, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili awarded war veterans with medals for military valor, for heroism and courage shown in the battles for the defense of the homeland and its unity.
According to Zurabishvili, if a country respects war veterans, then this country itself is worthy of respect.
Responding to a question about the outbreak of war and the responsibility of previous authorities, Zurabishvili said:
“I expressed my opinion on this issue before I became president. Today, it’s not my business as president to give political assessments, even with respect to the previous government. I can talk about what I should not do. However, if this interests us very much, we, neither in The Hague, nor elsewhere, since this is our internal question, the time will probably come, will create an internal commission. Historians will gather and the public will discuss everything”, Zurabishvili said.
Earlier, at the beginning of her election campaign, answering a journalist’s question about the August war, Zurabishvili said that Russia had long ago started a war against Georgia, but in August 2008 it was “Georgia that launched this part of military operations”. She was sharply criticized for this in Georgia.
On his Facebook page, Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze criticized the previous Georgian government because, according to him, it was its “anti-state policy that made the implementation of the occupation plan possible.”
The Prime Minister also noted that a complete de-occupation of Georgia is possible “by consolidating our people and pursuing a consistent policy together with the international community.”
In connection with the 11th anniversary of the war on August 7, the Georgian Foreign Ministry also issued a special statement.
It notes that Russia is still not fulfilling the ceasefire agreement signed on August 12, 2008 with EU mediation. The Georgian Foreign Ministry calls on Russia to fulfill its obligations.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry emphasizes that “discrimination and oppression of the Georgian population remaining in the Abkhaz and Tskhinvali regions on the basis of ethnicity, including a ban on receiving education in one’s native language and violation of one’s dignity, which is expressed as a forced change in ethnic identity, continues.”
Ex-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili also touched on the date. In a video message on Facebook, he called 2008 “one of the most glorious pages of history throughout the existence of Georgia, as it was a very large example of true heroism”.
“This is real heroism, because, no matter what they say, in 2008 Putin’s Russia was not able to solve any of its strategic tasks,” Saakashvili said.
412 red and white balloons
In addition to government events, various demonstrations were held by the public.
At the parliament building, participants of the ongoing anti-occupation rally launched 412 – red and white – balloons (the colors of the Georgian flag) into the sky.
Organizers of the rally say 412 is the number of people that died in the August War.
All 412 names were read out load.
Russian citizen Igor Kuroptev made a speech at the parliamentary rally, and expressed solidarity with Georgia.
In his speech, he said that his compatriots did not know anything about the fact that “11 years ago, Russian troops invaded a friendly country and began its occupation.”
“Russians should realize that this process, this war, continues to this day, and today Georgia is losing territory due to the creeping occupation,” said Igor Kuroptev, who moved to live in Georgia from Russia seven years ago.
He addressed the rally in Russian, and his speech was translated into Georgian.
“My speech will be distributed in the West by the media, and this is important. I want to say that Putin is an occupier who occupied Georgia, Ukraine and my country”, said Kuropteev.
At the end of his speech, he sang patriotic Georgian song Erio, bichebo.
Almost every year, during the anniversary of the August War, Georgian Facebook becomes a platform for heated debate.
The main question is who started the war and who is more to blame?
There are several camps:
Many supporters of today’s authorities accuse Saakashvili of fomenting a war and believe that it was Georgia, headed by Saakashvili, who started the war in August 2008.
Supporters of the former president say that Russia started the war and the Georgian authorities could not do anything and acted correctly.
The third part believes that Russia started the war, but there are big questions for the Saakashvili authorities in terms of tactical actions, as well as in terms of protecting civilians.
In the August war of 2008, 412 military and civilians were killed on the Georgian side, 365 military and civilians on the Ossetian side.
About 20,000 residents of Georgian villages in South Ossetia became internally displaced persons.
Georgia has lost control over territory where 125 villages are located.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia are recognized by Russia as independent states.