Russian Recognition of Independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Invasion of Georgia, Draws Condemnation
Cross-referencing: Chapter 3(2)(a), “Recognition of States”, pp. 178-184; Chapter 3(A)(4)(c), “The Duty of Non-Interference”, pp. 216-220; Chapter 4(B)(6), “Self-Determination”, pp. 315-337; Chapter 14(B), “The General Prohibition on the Threat or Use of Force”, pp. 833-839
On August 26, 2008, Russia recognized the independent statehood of the breakaway Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In statements made by the Russian president and by Russia’s representative in the UN Security Council, these acts of recognition were justified on the basis of Georgia’s history of violent attempts to assert control over the provinces (including Georgia’s August 2008 offensive in South Ossetia), alleged genocide of the South Ossetian and Abkhazian peoples by Georgia, the “freely expressed will of the Ossetian and Abkhaz peoples” to be independent of Georgia, and their “right to decide their destiny by themselves”. To date, only Nicaragua has joined Russia in recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In contrast, the Russian acts of recognition have been widely condemned by many states and regional organizations (including the European Union, the OSCE, NATO, and the G7) on the basis that they are inconsistent with Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Russia’s duty not to intervene in Georgia’s domestic affairs, and UN Security Council resolutions affirming the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders.
Most of these states and organizations had already condemned, on the same grounds, the large-scale military operations undertaken by Russia on Georgian territory, beginning on August 8, 2008, in purported support of South Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s alleged right of self-determination. Those operations prompted Georgia to institute, on August 12, 2008, proceedings against Russia in the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. While active hostilities between Russian and Georgian troops ceased in early October, 2008, Russia maintains a considerable troop presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and the ICJ proceedings remain ongoing at the time of writing.