Georgia marks 13 years since 2008 war

Government officials and diplomatic representatives laid wreaths at a memorial paying homage to the memory of those killed in the five-day conflict between Russia and Georgia 13 years ago. Photo via Ministry of Culture, Sport and Youth., 08 Aug 2021 - 14:31, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian officials, state institutions and the wider society are marking 13 years since the 2008 war that left tens of thousands displaced from their homes in the now-occupied Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) region, while over 400 citizens of the country were killed.

Flags on state offices were lowered across the country and at diplomatic representations abroad, while reactions to the date on Sunday were led by Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, who called the five days of the conflict between Russia and Georgia "some of the hardest in the contemporary history of Georgia".

Garibashvili paid homage to the civilian casualties - 14 employees of the interior ministry and 224 citizens - as well as the 170 servicemembers of the Georgian Defence Forces and professionals of the defence ministry.

President Zurabishvili meets children of servicemembers killed in action during the 2008 war. Photo via Administration of President of Georgia.

The PM added the government had chosen a "peaceful and pragmatic" policy for resolving the conflict, expressing confidence the approach, in conjunction with international support, would achieve its aims.

We will all witness unification of Georgia, and I would like this day to be for the heroes whose dedication was a dedication for the hope [for restoring territorial integrity]

- President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili

Garibashvili also visited the Mukhatgverdi Cemetery on the outskirts of Tbilisi where servicemembers killed in action during the five-day war are buried, decorating the memorial paying tribute to their memory with a wreath and making comments for the local press. The government head was present at the cemetery along with President Salome Zurabishvili, Parliament Speaker Kakha Kuchava, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, government members and diplomatic corps.

Officials, servicemembers and citizens visited the cemetery on Sunday to mark the date. Photo via Kakha Kaladze Tbilisi Mayor page on Facebook.

Zurabishvili told reporters she believed the August 8 date should not only commemorate the tragedy of the conflict, but also serve as a date of hope for restoring the country's territorial integrity, an outcome the president said she was confident about.

Today's comments follow statements from Georgian and foreign officials as well as diplomats on the 13th anniversary of the war and Russia's ongoing refusal to comply with articles of the August 12 ceasefire agreement. Messages by foreign minister David Zalkaliani and his ministry were joined by tweets by Georgia's international partners, including the Latvian foreign office and MEP Viola von Cramon.

Beside the over 400 casualties from armed forces, interior ministry and civilians, around 30,000 citizens of Georgia were forced to abandon their homes in the now-occupied Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) region. The administrative line separating the province - along with Abkhazia in Georgia's north-west - is frequently a flashpoint where occupying forces abduct Georgian citizens living near the line and illegally detain them.

In January the European Court of Human Rights released its ruling on a case pursued by Georgia against Russia, stating Russia and regional forces under its control violated six articles including the right to life, prohibition of torture and freedom of movement on the occupied territory.