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Current conflicts
 
The Russia-Georgia conflict

In 1991-1992, South Ossetian and Abkhazian armed groups fought to break away from Georgia. Both regions have close ties with Moscow. On 14 May 1994, the warring parties signed in Moscow the Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces. The parties agreed to the deployment of a peacekeeping force of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), composed mainly of Russian troops. The sixteen-year old UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), entrusted with overseeing the ceasefire accord between the Government and Abkhaz separatists in the country’s north-western region, terminated its mandate on 30 June 2009, following Russia's Security Council veto of the extension of the Mission's presence. The mandate of the OSCE Mission to Georgia, active in the region since 1992, likewise expired on 30 June 2009 as a result of the failure of OSCE's 56 participating states to reach consensus on extending the mission's mandate.

Russian peacekeepers are regularly accused by the Georgian authorities of siding with the separatists. The Georgian Parliament has called for the Russian contingents in both regions to be replaced by an international force. Over the years, sporadic clashes have continued with a comprehensive political settlement, including on the future status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the return of refugees and displaced persons, proving impossible to achieve.

On 8 August 2008, after heavy fighting between Georgian and South Ossetian forces, Russian forces entered South Ossetia, claiming the need to protect its citizens (a large number of South Ossetians hold Russian nationality). The following day, the Georgian Parliament approved a presidential decree declaring a "state of war". The Russian intervention went beyond South Ossetia's boundaries and included air strikes near the Georgian capital.

On 12 August 2008, a cease-fire plan was negotiated by the European Union (EU). However, it was not fully respected, not did it achieve a complete withdrawal of Russian armed forces. As of the beginning of September Russia still occupied the Georgian port of Poti and the main Georgian roads. On 8 September 2008, Russia declared its commitment to withdraw completely by 1 October in accordance with the August "six-point plan". According to the International Crisis Group, Russia has not complied with the key aspects of the cease-fire agreements, its forces remain in the areas it did not occupy before 7 August 2008 and it continues to boost its military presence with an additional 5,000 troops entering South Ossetia and Abkhazia beginning with April 2009.

On 26 August 2008, Russia unilaterally recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This recognition was strongly condemned by the EU, the USA, NATO, and the OSCE.

Sources and further reading:

BBC, Georgia-Russia Conflict

"The six point plan", Russia-Georgia cease fire negotiated by the EU, 12 August 2008

NATO Statement, 19 August 2008

Russia's response to NATO, 19 August 2008

Extraordinary meeting of the Council of the European Union on the situation in Georgia - Presidency conclusions (1 September 2008). It "strongly condemns Russia's unilateral decision to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia" and gives a mandate to its President to continue discussions with a view to the full application of the six-point agreement of 12 August 2008.

Georgia institutes proceedings against Russia before the International Court of Justice for violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 12 August 2008 (see International judicial decisions section)

The European Court of Human Rights grants request by Georgia for interim measure in the context of an inter-State application against the Russian Federation, 13 August 2008 (see International judicial decisions section)

Human Rights Watch, Humanitarian Law Violations and Civilian Victims in the Conflict over South Ossetia, January 2009

UNHCR emergency operations in Georgia

International Crisis Group (ICG), "Georgia-Russia: Learn to Live like Neighbours", Europe Briefing No. 65, 8 August 2011

International Crisis Group (ICG), "South Ossetia: The Burden of Recognition", Europe Report No. 205, 7 June 2010

Moldovan Republic of Transdniestria (MRT)

On 2 September 1990, the Moldovan Republic of Transdniestria (MRT) was proclaimed in Tiraspol, Moldova's second largest city.

The 1992 conflict between the secessionists, supported by Russian troops stationed there, and the Moldovan police lasted four months and caused several hundred deaths, displacing around 100,000 people.

On 21 July 1992, an agreement was signed in Moscow between the Republic of Moldova and the Russian Federation on principles of a peaceful solution of the armed conflict in the Transdniestrian region of Moldova. The agreement provided for an immediate cease-fire and the creation of a demilitarised security zone between the parties.

To implement the cease-fire, a tripartite Joint Control Commission (JCC) was established, consisting of Moldovan, Russian and TMR delegations assisted by a group of 30 military observers, ten from each of the parties. The 21 July Agreement also provided for trilateral peacekeeping forces, consisting of five Russian, three Moldovan and two Transdniestrian battalions. These forces operate under the Trilateral Joint Military Command, which in turn is subordinated to the JCC. The peacekeeping troops began deployment on 29 July 1992.

The cease-fire has largely been observed until recently, although numerous incidents in the security zone guarded by the trilateral force have been alleged by both sides. The presence of the 14th Russian Army in the left-bank areas remains the major military issue in the region, numbering an estimated 5,000 well armed troops.

On September 2006, the region voted in favour of separation from Moldova and for joining Russia. The referendum was not, however, recognised either by the OSCE or the European Union, the latter explaining that "the situation in Transnistria does not allow the free expression of popular will."

Conflict resolution talks involving Moldova, TMR, Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE resumed under Russian mediation in 2008 (having been suspended in 2006), but did not produce any result. In October 2011, Moldova and the breakaway region were reported to have agreed to resume internationally-mediated negotiations on settling the conflict.

Sources and further reading:

OSCE, The Transdniestrian conflict - origins and main issues, January 2001

MFA, press release,"Meetings between Mediators/Observers in Negotiation Process on Transnistrian Settlement and Leaderships of Republic of Moldova and Transnistria," 24 July 2008

North Caucasus: Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia

Chechnya

Chechnya declared its independence from Russia in 1991. The following years were marked with lawlessness, violence and then full-scale conflict.

The first Chechen conflict, 1994-1996

In 1994, the Kremlin sent troops into Chechnya to restore its authority. The capital, Grozny, was reduced to ruins. However, with mounting losses in the Russian army, the conflict ended with the withdrawal of Russian forces. On 22 August 1996, a ceasefire agreement was signed. It was followed on 31 August with the signing by federal and separatist negotiators of a statement of principles, which became known as the "Khasavyurt Agreement". The agreement gave Chechnya autonomy but not full independence.

The second Chechen conflict, August 1999

In August 1999, Chechen fighters crossed into the neighbouring Russian Republic of Dagestan in an unsuccessful attempt to support the local Islamist separatist movement. The 2003 constitution gives Chechnya greater autonomy but enshrines its position within Russian Federation.

The situation in Chechnya, 2008-2009

An armed conflict is ongoing in Chechnya, although violence is occurring at a significantly reduced rate compared to previous years. On 16 April 2009, the Russian government announced the end of the counter-terrorism operation in Chechnya. However, sporadic violence continues. On 31 August 2011, six police officers and two others were killed in a triple suicide bomb attack in the Chechen capital Grozny.

As of June 2008, the European Court of Human Rights had found Russia responsible for human rights violations in Chechnya in 31 rulings, including torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.

Ingushetia

Soviet authorities redrew the boundaries giving some Ingush land to North Ossetia, an act which sowed the seeds for a bitter conflict half a century later. In 1992, Ingush forces moved into the disputed Prigorodny district. As a result, Moscow sent troops to establish order and the Ingush population was expelled from the disputed areas. Ingushetia lives in the shadow of the violence and lawlessness of its Chechen neighbour, and from time to time the violence spills over the border. In September 2008, the Helsinki Group warned of the risks of increased conflict in Ingushetia.

In 2010, after a suicide attack in the Moscow airport, Russian security forces conducted an air strike in Ingushetia. 17 rebels were killed and an important militant base was destroyed during the operation.

Daghestan

Daghestan kept out of the first Chechen war, though it was used by the Chechens as a supply corridor. In 1999, local Muslim radicals were joined by guerrillas from Chechnya in an attempt to establish an Islamic state; this was quickly stamped out by the Russian army. Since then, Dagestan has been the scene of a number of bloody attacks, including one at a Victory Day parade in 2002, and hundreds of kidnappings.

The situation remains unstable, with a general atmosphere of lawlessness and the threat of violence. During the summer of 2011, the security situation in the republic deteriorated dramatically and October 2011 witnessed the daily battles between government forces and the insurgents in the republic. 

See also: International Crisis Group, "Russia's Dagestan: Conflict Causes", Europe Report No. 192, 3 June 2008

This overview is adapted from the BBC online profile of the north Caucasus. See, also, BBC Timeline: Chechnya.

Kabardino-Balkaria

Low level violence takes place in the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria with periodic counter-terrorist operations carried out either by police or security forces. On 27 February 2011, a counterterrorist operation regime in Kabardino-Balkaria was extended to parts of the republican capital Nalchik, and the Chegem and Cherek districts. The counterterrorist operation had been established earlier in parts of the Elbrus and Baksan districts. The introduction of a counterterrorist operation regime in much of Kabardino-Balkaria followed a series of brazen attacks in the republic against law enforcement personnel, tourists and tourism related infrastructure. Following the events, Russian military forces bombarded the mountainous area where the militants were thought to be hiding, employing both mortars and airstrikes.

Security forces conducting a special operation in the area did discover a rebel base where they found weapons and explosives (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, February 23). There have also been sporadic incidents which Russian officials attributed to different terrorist groups.

Last updated: 8 November 2011

   
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