Seven years on from Russian-Georgian war

Man holds the body of his killed brother, in Gori, 80 km from Tbilisi, August 9, 2008; Photo by G. Abdaladze/Reuters, 07 Aug 2015 - 16:25, Tbilisi,Georgia

As the clock strikes midnight tonight, Georgia will mark the seventh anniversary of Russia’s aggression and occupation of the territories of a sovereign, independent state.

Memorial events dedicated to the seventh anniversary of the August 2008 war will take place all over Georgia but primarily in Gori, which was the battleground of the five-day Russian-Georgian war.

A candle lighting ceremony will begin in Gori at 9pm tonight and continue through the night until midnight – the time when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008.

Candles will also be lit at the memorial of the soldiers killed in the Russian-Georgian war. People who gather at the memorial will get the chance to send Chinese lanterns into the sky in memory of the victims of the short but deadly war.

The next morning, on August 8, bells will ring at the Cathedral Church of Gori where people will pray for the war victims’ souls. Officials will join people and pay tribute to the deceased by laying flowers at various memorials in different districts of Gori.

Later in the day a special commemoration will be held in Shindisi village where local officials will lay wreaths at the Shindisi Heroes Memorial, honouring the soldiers who died heroically while fighting for their country.

On this date seven years ago a 17 member detachment of Georgian soldiers came face-to-face with Russian soldiers in Shindisi village. The Russians greatly outnumbered the Georgian side and advised the Georgians to surrender but they refused.

The uneven battle between Georgian and Russian soldiers continued for some hours.

Despite being far fewer in numbers, Georgia inflicted great damage on their opposition. Almost every Georgian soldier died in the ongoing fighting and when only two remained, they chose to blow themselves up rather than become hostages.

This battle was only part of the five-day Russia-Georgia war. Following the armed conflict 228 Georgian civilians, 170 soldiers and 14 police officers had lost their lives.

The war displaced 192,000 people in Georgia. Many were able to return to their homes after the war but as of May 2014, more than 20,200 people remain displaced.

In tomorrow’s commemorations at the end of the day internally displaced children living in Gori can enjoy an animated film screened at the Gori Kombinati Culture Centre.

The anniversary events will end with friendly football matches between Gori City Hall employees and Georgian Amputee Footballers.

Meanwhile, Georgia's breakaway Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) region is also preparing for the seventh anniversary of the war. In this respect the border will be strictly closed for two days.

The reason for the temporary border closure was related to safety measures connected to memorial events.

In Tskhinvali dozens of people will explain how 116 villages were burned during the war, and a photo exhibition will be held dedicated to the August war anniversary, showing photos of Russian soldiers killed in the clash.

In addition a new movie titled 120 hours of war will show documentary shots filmed from a Russian perspective during the August war.

Today occupation forces still exercise control over the Georgian regions of Abkhzaia and Tskinvali. In the early 1990s Russia first invaded Georgia in a large-scale military operation and since then it has occupied Georgia's Abkhazia region, and later Tskhinvali. As a result Russia now occupies 20 percent of Georgian territory.

Furthermore Russian occupation is still creeping at the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) between breakaway Tskhinvali and the rest of Georgia.

As Russia moves the so-called border one or two kilometres deeper into Georgian territory, it disregards the international community’s calls to stop their destructive actions.