For many people outside of Georgia, the protests against the recent docking of the Russian cruise ship Astoria Grande were a reminder that Russia has not only invaded Ukraine and occupied large parts of its territory: it has in recent memory also occupied two regions of Georgia as well as a slither of land in eastern Moldova, Marek Grzegorczyk reported for Emerging Europe.
Photo Insert: The Astoria Grande.
A region of Georgia, Abkhazia has maintained de facto independence since the end of a civil war in 1993 in which Russia supplied cash and weapons to Abkhazian separatists. Russia has a military presence in the region and is one of a handful of states that recognizes the territory’s independence.
Before the 1992-1993 war, Georgians made up nearly half of Abkhazia’s population, and less than 20% of the population was Abkhaz.
The separatists engaged in ethnic cleansing and 250,000 Georgians were expelled. Thousands of Russian troops are stationed in the territory, and Russia remains influential in Abkhazia’s security apparatus.
As in Abkhazia, the South Ossetian separatists were backed by Russia. The conflict remained largely frozen, with South Ossetia de facto independent from Tbilisi until 2004, when Georgia’s then-president Mikheil Saakashvili vowed to reincorporate separatist territories.
In August 2008, he ordered a military offensive that took control of significant parts of South Ossetia but Russia intervened, declared war on Georgia, and recognized the independence of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
In the conflict between the government of the newly-independent Republic of Moldova and the “Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic,” known colloquially as Transnistria, formed by the Russian minority living in a slither of land on the left bank of the Dniester River began in the autumn of 1991.
The separatists were supported by elements of the Russian 14th Army, which had long recruited its forces from the region. Fighting intensified in March 1992 and continued throughout the spring and early summer of 1992 until a ceasefire was declared in July 1992. It has largely held since then.