Georgia: Fence-Fight Continues with Russia, Separatists
Autumn is a relatively busy time in Georgia -- the farmers are harvesting grapes, the kids are heading back to school, and the Russians are building more fences.
On September 17, Georgian journalists came within a gnat's nose of a trip to a South Ossetian prison when they arrived in a Georgian village, Ditsi, to film Russian soldiers fencing off access to a family cemetery.
Ditsi neighbors the separatist region of South Ossetia, an area babysat by Russian troops in contravention of the cease-fire agreement ending the 2008 Russia-Georgia war over the territory.
Overall since the war, in an alleged attempt to enhance security , Russian troops have erected 27 kilometers of fence through 15 Georgian villages close to South Ossetia.
To date, they do so with relative impunity.
The only international body keeping a regular eye on the fence-fight, the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM), has advised all parties "to show restraint and focus on local communities' concerns." On September 18, NATO's special representative for the Caucasus, James Appathurai, echoed that call. But the two organizations can do little else.
Meanwhile, South Ossetia's separatist officials, who blame Tbilisi for trying to stage an alleged "provocation" over these fences, maintain that extreme care was taken to keep the Ditsi fence on what they term "the state territory" of South Ossetia. Yet where exactly they define the limit of this so-called territory is unclear.
Earlier reports have cited contradictory maps as part of the mess, but, in the end, maps are of little consequence in a game without rules.
Russia, which has refused to negotiate about the matter, has claimed, in regard to Syria, that "decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus . . . " But in Georgia, a country many outsiders still struggle to identify, they risk happening by way of a fence.
Russian forces halted installation of the Ditsi fence on the evening of September 18, Georgian media sources reported on September 19. Meanwhile, Georgian interior ministry troops are patrolling the village.