Georgia marks fifth anniversary of Russia war

Georgia marks fifth anniversary of Russia war

TBILISI - Agence France-Presse
Georgia marks fifth anniversary of Russia war

PM Ivanishvili has made normalizing relations with Russia his priority.

Georgia marked today the fifth anniversary of the 2008 war with Russia over Georgia’s separatist territory of South Ossetia, with both sides still blaming each other for the costly conflict.

The government is holding a series of somber events to commemorate the occasion, including a wreath-laying ceremony in Tbilisi at a cemetery for servicemen killed in the fighting and a military parade in the town of Gori, which was bombed and briefly occupied by Russian forces. On the night of Aug. 7-8, 2008, Georgia’s pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili, who claimed to be reacting to the bombing of Georgian villages, launched an offensive to reclaim breakaway region South Ossetia only to see Russian forces sweep into Georgia.

On the eve of the anniversary five years on, Georgian and Russian politicians traded barbs with each other over responsibility for the fighting, despite some hope that ties between the two foes could be improving.
In a rare interview with Georgian television, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who was president at the time of the conflict, refused to apologize for the conflict, laying the blame squarely at Tbilisi’s door and denying Russia has broken a ceasefire deal by keeping its forces stationed in South Ossetia.

In the wake of the war, Russia officially recognized the independence of South Ossetia and another Georgian separatist region, Abkhazia, and now has thousands of troops stationed in the regions. In October, Saakashvili’s United National Movement party lost out to a coalition headed by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili in parliamentary elections, prompting hopes for an improvement in ties between Moscow and Tbilisi after diplomatic relations were severed by the war.

Ivanishvili, now prime minister, has made normalizing relations with Russia his foreign policy priority but, despite Russia lifting a seven-year ban on Georgian wine earlier this year, progress has been minimal.