South Ossetian war

   In an atmosphere colored by worsening relations between Russia and Georgia over the former’s military support of the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the latter’s talks to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance and significant cooperation with the United States military, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered his military to attack the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali on the night of 7 August 2008.
   Responding to casualties among Russian peacekeepers deployed in the region, Moscow immediately responded by ordering a fullscale invasion of South Ossetia. The military action was Russia’s first offensive deployment outside its borders since independence. The Russian navy quickly moved to block Georgian ports, and, acting in conjunction with Abkhazian separatists, the Russian army opened a second front in the Kodori Gorge in northwestern Georgia. After five days of fighting, Russian forces had secured the breakaway regions and moved on the Georgian cities of Poti and Gori. As the Russian military drew closer to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, the international community—led by French President Nicholas Sarkozy—put pressure on Moscow to agree to a cease-fire, which was brokered on 12 August 2008. Over the next week, Russia evacuated most of its positions in Georgia proper but retained control of so-called buffer zones around Abkhazia and South Ossetia; this allowed the separatist governments to consolidate control of certain territories that had been under Georgian control prior to the conflict. Russian President Dmitry Medvyedev, at the behest of the Federation Council, recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states on 26 August 2008, a move mirrored by only two other United Nations members, Nicaragua and Venezuela. A final pullout from Georgian territory occurred in early October. Approximately 400 soldiers died in the fighting and more than 150,000 civilians were displaced. The U.S. and other countries committed substantial funds to rebuilding Georgia’s infrastructure in the wake of the summer war, while Moscow has plowed money into Abkhazia and South Ossetia and signed deals to establish military bases in the regions. Since the war, Medvyedev has described Transcaucasia as a “zone of privileged interest” for Russia, prompting fears of future military actions.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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