Amidst an uneasy calm, Russian peacekeepers still stood at their posts on February 16 outside the Georgian village of Ergneti, not far from the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali. But while there were no outward signs of tension, villagers expressed mixed feelings about Georgian plans to force Russian troops from the zone.
"On one hand, the population says that it is good, but others say that it doesn't make a difference," said Eteri Mosiashvili, a resident of Ergneti, the former site of a sprawling contraband market for goods from Russia. "It seems peaceful here, but if you want the truth ... everything is not calm. It is tense. People are still afraid."
Like most of the Georgian villagers interviewed in the conflict zone, Mosiashvili supported the withdrawal of Russian troops as a so-called "third party" to the conflict. Once the Russians are gone, she said, "I believe there will be peace between Georgians and Ossetians."
In a unanimous vote on February 15, the Georgian parliament passed a non-binding resolution that evaluated the performance of Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone as "extremely negative"' and charged that the Russian Federation is attempting to annex the breakaway region. While calling for the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers, the Georgian resolution set no deadline. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Anzori Vakhtangishvili, a teacher in Ergneti, also believes Russia is at the root of the problem between Georgia and South Ossetia. "I don't think that the Russian bases will leave soon," he said. "I think that Russia is creating a provocation and will then regulate it itself. Then it will tell the world
Molly Corso is a freelance photographer and writer based in Tbilisi. Kakha Jibladze is a freelance reporter and translator based in Tbilisi.