Georgia - The political situation & its affects

In the geopolitical resettlement that followed the fall of the Soviet Union, many parts of Eurasia saw varying degrees of ethnic tension often escalating into serious warfare.

The safest course is to avoid areas of political instability and periodic ethnic conflict. However, despite the rare exception that makes the headlines, in most instances, the itinerant traveller is unlikely to suffer unless he or she is caught in actual crossfire.

After the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia, Georgia's two de facto independent regions of South Ossetia and Abbkhazia, gained limited international recognition.

Georgia and the majority of other countries of the world do not recognize their independence and consider both South Ossetia and Abkhazia as sovereign territory of the Georgian state.

In recent years, the Pankisi Gorge has been the site of periodic military clashes between Georgian forces and Chechen militia. It is also believed to harbour suspected international terrorists and the criminal elements that often follow in their train.

Travellers who refrain from meddling in local politics are unlikely to experience harassment anywhere in Georgia including South Ossetia, Abkhazia or the dangerous Pankisi Gorge.

In the present, relatively peaceful post-war conditions, terrorism has abated. But, at the height of the conflict, terrorists targeted markets, public transport, commercial premises and public places where foreigners might be present.

Since the end of hostilities, car bombings have occurred in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The intended targets are usually military or security facilities. But, ordinary civilians or unsuspecting travellers may be affected.

Unexploded ordnance is another problem altogether.

According to figures provided to the UN, there were between 75,000 and 100,000 unexploded landmines scattered throughout regions of recent conflict. The biggest concentration of landmines is on the Georgian and Abkhazian sides of the Inguri River in Gali Province. The Ochamchira and Tkvartcheli regions were heavily mined with an estimated 27,000 land mines. There were maps documenting the minefields, but many of the mines were unmarked.

Currently operating with 150 national staff, HALO were expecting to complete the clearance of the 30 remaining minefields in Abkhazia, which are mostly in upper Kodori by the end of March 2010.

During and after the Georgian-Ossetian war, persistent low-level mine-laying took place, primarily in areas between Georgian and South Ossetian controlled villages. Although there are reports of at least 15 landmine casualties in South Ossetia in the past three years, international demining organizations have often been unable to gain sufficient access to assess the landmine threat.

The four day conflict around the South Ossetian city of Tshinvali between South Ossetian, Georgian and Russian forces in August 2008 did not involve the laying of landmines. However, heavy use of aircraft bombing, artillery and mortars resulted in widespread Unexploded Ordnance and cluster ammunition contamination.

Despite the best efforts on the part of international demining organizations, the possibility of triggering an unexploded landmine or other military ordnance poses a constant danger to all travelers in the region.

It is also illegal to enter Georgia from Abkhazia or South Ossetia since there are no operating official border control check-points.

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  • Loanemu said

    This is one awesome article. Will read on...

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