New report of the Democracy Research Institute Akhalgori Deadlock

Akhalgori Deadlock is a new report issued by the Democracy Research Institute, analyzing the current situation in Akhalgori and possible solutions.

Tbilisi-Tskhinvali relations before 2008

Tskhinvali, which was militarily vulnerable and economically weak, had not been avoiding relations and direct dialogue with Georgia before Russia's recognition of South Ossetia. However, after receiving recognition from Russia, security guarantees and significant economic support, Tskhinvali lost interest in relations with Tbilisi. However, even against this background, Tskhinvali's attitude towards Akhalgori residents remained relatively liberal.

Relations after the presidency of Anatoly Bibilov

Georgian-Ossetian relations have become particularly tense after Anatoly Bibilov came to power. Detentions of people on charges of illegally crossing the so-called border became frequent, it became difficult to receive education in Georgian, Georgian activist Tamar Mearakishvili was demonstratively punished, and the borderization process intensified. After the murder of Archil Tatunashvili, the relationship has become extremely tense.

Consequences of the Chorchana-Tsnelisi crisis

The already tense situation was further complicated by the Chorchana-Tsnelisi crisis. After Tskhinvali unsuccessfully demanded that the central Government abolish a police post located in the village of Chorchana, Anatoly Bibilov took the population of Akhalgori captive. Akhalgori has been cut from the outside world since September 2019 and the population has not had freedom of movement since then. Life in the district has become virtually unbearable in the wake of the crisis and the Covid-19 epidemic. A significant part of the population has been leaving Akhalgori for a year and a half now.

DRI recommendations

The current critical situation requires a bold, extraordinary policy from the central Government of Georgia, which should continue to mobilize the international community to put pressure on the Tskhinvali authorities and Moscow. At the same time, the Government of Georgia needs to develop a special assistance package for the people of Akhalgori in time, so that to enable them to satisfy their basic needs without leaving their homes under the conditions of the prolonged isolation (for example, a special financial assistance programme, mechanisms for timely delivery of medicines and food, etc.).

In addition, the Government should start a dialogue with Tskhinvali on issues that may be of interest to them:

  • For example, under conditions of joint administration of Tbilisi and Tskhinvali, it seems quite realistic to launch a free economic zone in the surrounding area (by using the experience of the Ergneti market);
  • If restrictions on freedom of movement are lifted, the population of the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia will have quick and cheap access to the rest of the world through Tbilisi and Kutaisi airports;
  • The east-west central highway of Georgia (which is only a few hundred meters from the Tskhinvali region) provides new opportunities for the transportation of people and cargo;
  • In addition, due to the geographical-meteorological problems at the Larsi checkpoint, in case of an agreement, cargo may be redirected to TransCam.

With neither Georgia nor international organizations having access to the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, the role of the local civil society is even more important. Therefore, it is advisable for donor organizations to start discussing ways of assisting the civil sector in the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.

Akhalgori Deadlock