News / Europe

'Rural Berlin Walls' Divide Communities After Russia-Georgia War

Five Years After Russia-Georgia War, New 'Rural Berlin Walls' Cut Communitiesi
X
August 12, 2013 8:19 PM
Five years ago this week, Russia and Georgia fought a short war over two separatist regions of Georgia - Abkhazia and South Ossetia. James Brooke returns to the cease-fire line with South Ossetia and discovers new divides separating the regions' residents.
James Brooke
Two-meter-high rolls of razor wire now course through Georgia's countryside, dividing farms, families and villages.
 
Five years ago this week, Russia and Georgia fought a short war over two separatist regions of Georgia-Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  When the cease-fires were signed on August 16, 2008, the cease-fire lines were to be temporary lines drawn on maps of Georgia.
 
But five years later, Russian soldiers are putting up kilometers of fencing and earthen berms, creating what some call “rural Berlin Walls.”
 
Mariam, an Ossetian, and her husband, David Vanishvili, a Georgian, woke up one day in this border village to find their lives cut in half.
 
“My Georgian friends miss me, and sometimes they come close to the fence and we talk," said Mariam, talking to VOA through the fresh rolls of razor wire. "They ask how I am and if I need something. The day before we didn’t have matches and they brought some to us.”
 
David said Russian soldiers patrol the border daily, walking down a border footpath with dogs.
 
“The fence used to not be this long, it used to be shorter, but they made it longer," said David, a spry 79-year-old farmer. "So sometimes we could go on the Georgian side when it was short, but now it is almost impossible.”

Cease-fire monitors concerned
 
The European Union Monitoring Mission monitors the cease-fire. On Saturday, the Mission said,  a shot was fired from the South Ossetian side as a Georgian police truck approached a South Ossetian border berm.

Russian troops are using earthen berms, irrigation ditches, fencing and razor wire to demarcate temporary cease-fire lines as international borders.
 
There have been more and more fences being built, and this is a big concern," European Union Monitoring Mission Spokesman Gergely Fulop said in Tbilisi.  Estimating that 27 kilometers of barriers have been built in recent months, he added: "This stops everyday lives of people there. It restricts very badly the freedom of movement there.
 
Georgian parliamentarian Giorgi Vashadze says the new government of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili is not standing up to Russia. He says the old UNM party government of President Mikhail Saakashvili would have led an international protest campaign over the fences.
 
“They are doing that because current government is weak," he said of the Ivanishvili government that took power after parliamentary elections last October. "Believe me, if there was UNM government in this case, there would be huge campaign, international campaign that horrible disaster on Georgian territory.”

Good fences make good neighbors
 
But Prime Minister Ivanishvili says relations with Russia are improving. Russia has recently re-opened its market to Georgian wines and mineral waters. There is a surge of Russian tourists visiting Georgia, with half a million expected this year. On the new border barriers, he is cautiously optimistic:
 
“When it comes to the situation in occupied territories, putting barbed wire on so-called border lines, this creates tension with Russia," he told VOA. "But it will be eventually solved, most likely after the Olympic games in Sochi, Russia.”
 
Alexander Rondeli, president of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, says Russia is building the border fences to show Georgia who is in charge.
 
“They are just doing it to show Georgia that all relations will be according to Russian rules," Rondeli said in Tbilisi. "Russia recognizes South Ossetia. South Ossetia is an independent state. Georgia has to accept it.”

On the Ossetian side of Khurvaleti village, one resident likes the fence.

“This fence is a good thing," Aslan Ivanovich Huvullova, an Ossetian resident, said in Russian. "This is our border. This is our land. I was born on this land, and my father was also born here.”

Five years after the war, a temporary cease-fire line dividing two regions of Georgia increasingly looks like a border between two nations.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More