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Russian Embassy on publication of Tagliavini Commission Report

Moscow has awaited with interest the publication of the report of the EU’s Commission on the causes and culprits of the conflict in August 2008. We expected that the abundance of facts and evidence before the Commission would clearly indicate those bearing full responsibility for the tragedy and, thereby, prevent the recurrence of such criminal acts in the future, a Russian Embassy press release said.

The release: As is known, Russia did not participate in the creation of this Commission in December last year. Nevertheless, we responded to the Commission’s inquiries in a serious and responsible manner. Its head, Heidi Tagliavini, has long been known in Russia as an authoritative Swiss diplomat capable of independent assessments and conclusions.

Numerous documents on military, legal and humanitarian aspects of last year’s tragedy were transmitted by us to the Commission’s members and experts. Official representatives of competent Russian ministries and departments repeatedly met with Ms. Tagliavini and her team, and provided them with detailed explanations of the nature and sequence of the August events.

Paying tribute to the transparent form of presentation of the report and to the simultaneous acquaintance of most of the concerned parties with its contents, we expect that the authors will find a suitable formula for its transmission to the representatives of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the more so as they participate on an equal basis in the Geneva Discussions on Transcaucasia and are quite open to international contacts.

In our opinion, the efforts of the EU’s Commission have not been wasted - from the report published on September 30, any sane person would come to the core conclusion that the aggression against South Ossetia on the night of August 7-8, 2008 was unleashed by the current leadership of Georgia. Ultimately, it is the main outcome of the work of the “Tagliavini Commission.” Indeed, it is difficult to imagine otherwise, if one recalls the content of Order No. 02 to the chief of staff of the 4th infantry brigade of Georgia’s armed forces: “The task force shall carry out a combat operation in the Samachablo (South Ossetia) region and rout the enemy within 72 hours. Georgia’s jurisdiction shall be restored in the region.” It is also important that the published document clearly points at the states which armed and trained the Georgian army.

However, the report contains a number of ambiguities. In particular, its section alleging a disproportional use of force by the Russian side raises big questions.

Yet in the same report one can easily find arguments that show the artificial nature of such reasoning. Let us only note the remarkable finding of German law professor Otto Luchterhandt, who participated on the “Tagliavini Commission” as an independent expert, that “Russia can justify its military operation against Georgia by the right of self-defence (Article 51, UN Charter) and by the right of collective self-defence, along with South Ossetia, against Georgia’s armed attack.” Comments, as they say, are superfluous.

As to the thesis of “disproportionality,” the Russian side used force to neutralize those positions on Georgian territory that were being used for the attack on South Ossetia.

In any case, the report of the EU’s Commission gives additional food for thought over the risk of counting on the use of force to resolve conflicts and shows how such adventures lead to a breakdown in the territorial integrity of states and to the exacerbation of international tension in general.

From the lessons of the past one ought to be able to draw correct conclusions. A year after Georgia’s aggression South Ossetia and Abkhazia are looking confidently to the future.

With the support of friends the new republics are engaged in the construction of their own statehood, predicated on the principles of democracy and human rights and on respect for the universally recognized norms of international law. Russia’s recognition of these two states must be perceived through this prism.

It is important that the international community should not once again miss the opportunity to take a close look at the findings contained in the report of the EU’s Commission. Some vague and ambiguous language there, we understand, reflects the still lingering politicized approaches of many EU countries to the events of August 2008 and their consequences. However that cannot overshadow the main conclusion of the report about Tbilisi’s guilt for unleashing an aggression against peaceful South Ossetia and the complete illegitimacy of Georgia’s actions.

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