DRI: Russia's Growing Influence in Tskhinvali

De-facto “independence” of so-called South Ossetia is becoming even more formal. The so-called parliament of South Ossetia intends to amend the laws “On Weapons" and "On Licensing Certain Types of Activities”. These amendments extend the rights of the Russian Federation to the territory of South Ossetia indefinitely.

The proposed amendments to the Law “On Weapons” expand the definition of the term "service weapon". In particular, if this term is now defined as "a weapon intended for use by officials", according to the amendment, employees of the Joint Information-Coordination Center of the Ministries of Internal Affairs of the so-called Republic of South Ossetia and the Russian Federation will be given the right to carry a weapon.

In connection with the proposed amendments, it is important to note that under Russian law, employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are prohibited from conducting operative activities beyond the state borders. Accordingly, the planned amendments are an exception only for South Ossetia, which will allow Russian militiamen of the abovementioned center to use weapons on the territory of South Ossetia. It is known that Russian militiamen also enjoy similar rights in occupied Crimea.

Civil society representatives are also protesting against the amendments in Tskhinvali. Discussions on this issue in Tskhinvali began back in 2015, when the creation of the Russian-Ossetian Joint Information-Coordination Center was planned. However, it was then decided that only forensic experts in the field of criminology would have the right to carry and use weapons. Their task would have been to increase the qualifications of local staff. With the current amendment, giving additional privileges to Russia is being considered.

Several articles[1] of the bill, which refers to the training of legal entities that have "special statutory tasks", have also prompted the discussion. It is unclear what is meant under these organizations. Part 11 of the bill deals with a commercial organization without any clarifying details. Most importantly, Part 4 of the law deals with the importation and export of weapons in the so-called Republic.

So-called South Ossetia was totally controlled by Russia even before this. These amendments may be related to the further strengthening of Russia's position in Tskhinvali and the South Caucasus, as well as to the use of South Ossetia for the financial and technical support of other Russian-occupied territories.

The Democracy Research Institute believes that the planned amendments further increase the political, economic and legal risks connected to the occupation and, at the same time, expand the privileges of the Russian Federation's representatives in the occupied region.

Accordingly, the Democracy Research Institute calls on the Georgian authorities to use all available mechanisms, including the Geneva International Discussions format, to curb Russia's growing and uncontrolled influence in Tskhinvali.