The Russo-Georgian War That Shook the world

 Victims of August 2008

Photographs by Eddie Gerald

August 1, 2008 - A Georgian police car was blown up at 08:05 on the Eredvi-Kheiti road. Joint Peacekeeping Forces (JPKF) commander's media assistant Captain Vladimir Ivanov reported that JPKF military observers from all three sides and OSCE representatives investigated a bomb attack. The explosion, which had been probably engineered by South Ossetian separatists, injured five Georgian policemen. 122 mm artillery shells had been used to make the bombs, according to Russian peacekeepers.

According to the Russian peacekeepers, a Georgian sniper from near to the village of Prisi killed one South Ossetian militia member at about 18:17. South Ossetian de facto leader Eduard Kokoity claimed late that day that a "sniper war" was being conducted by Georgia and accused Ukraine and the United States of being responsible for this.

Ossetian separatists began shelling Georgian villages on 1 August at the earliest, with a sporadic response from Georgian peacekeepers and other troops in the region. During the night of 1/2 August, the worst outbreak of violence in the past four years happened. South Ossetia accused Georgia of firing first. South Ossetian authorities reported that the number of killed Ossetians was six (including one North Ossetian peacekeeper), and the number of injured was fifteen. Georgian Interior Ministry stated that the Georgian villages of Zemo Nikozi, Kvemo Nikozi, Nuli and Ergneti were shelled. The Georgian casualties were six injured civilians and one injured policeman. Georgian defense ministry official Mamuka Kurashvili said that the Georgians only responded to the South Ossetian shelling and suspected that Russian peacekeepers were also involved in the shelling of the Georgian villages. During the five-day conflict, 170 servicemen, 14 policemen, and 228 civilians from Georgia were killed and 1,747 wounded. Sixty-seven Russian servicemen were killed and 283 were wounded, and 365 South Ossetian servicemen and civilians (combined) were killed, according to an official EU fact-finding report about the conflict.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) states that all parties to the war seriously violated international laws governing war, causing many civilian casualties. HRW reported that no proof of intentional attacks on civilians by Georgian troops had been discovered. The South Ossetian parliament and several schools and nurseries were used as military positions or posts by South Ossetian troops and volunteer militias and targeted by Georgian artillery fire. Georgia stated that its attacks only intended to "neutralize firing positions from where Georgian positions were being targeted". HRW documented witness accounts of the usage of civilian objects by South Ossetian fighters. Such usage made civilian objects permissible military aims, and HRW concluded that South Ossetian fighters put civilians at risk by setting up military positions near or in civilian structures. Georgia was responsible for the indiscriminate use of force by using inaccurate weapons to target military targets in civilian areas.

Georgia and South Ossetia have filed complaints about alleged war crimes committed by the other side with international courts, including the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, and the European Court of Human Rights.

The war displaced 192,000 people including both Ossetians and Georgians. Many were able to return to their homes after the war, but a year later around 30,000 ethnic Georgians remained displaced. As of May 2014, 20,272 persons remained displaced, with their return being blocked by de facto authorities.

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