Yesterday, August 8th, the world remembered the events of 2008 when Georgia under Mikhail Saakashvili launched an armed campaign of aggression against South Ossetia. However, both then and today, the role of Ukraine in these events has remained only in the periphery of public attention. Let us break with this tradition and expose Kiev’s role in the war of 08/08/08.
Kiev loves to talk about Russian aggression against Ukraine and Russian interference in their country’s internal affairs. In alleging this, however, Ukrainians conveniently forget to mention that Ukrainian nationalists with close links to military intelligence participated in both Chechen Wars, including training Chechen rebels in then Ukrainian Crimea.
But Ukraine’s largest-scale participation in operations against Russia remains its collusion with Georgian aggression in August 2008. Not only South Ossetians, but also Russian peacekeepers and Russian soldiers who defended South Ossetia from genocide at the hands of the Saakashvili regime were the victims of this Ukrainian-aided aggression. In fact, even Georgia today recognizes that the war in South Ossetia was unleashed by Saakashvili himself. A criminal case is open against him and he has been deprived of Georgian citizenship. Thus, 9 years after the war and Russia’s position is still understood even in Georgia. As for Ukraine, the aggression against Russia continues.
Ukraine’s complicity in Georgian aggression in South Ossetia manifested itself in three forms:
1. Diplomatic and foreign policy promotion of Georgian expansionism and moral approval of the coercive methods employed to “restore” Georgia’s mythical “territorial integrity.”
2. Massive supplies of offensive and defensive weapons to Georgia (which did not even care to mask its offensive plans).
3. The direct participation of Ukrainian troops in Tbilisi’s military aggression against the civilian population of Tskhinvali and the Russian peacekeepers stationed there with UN mandate for peacekeeping operations. Ukrainians’ participation in the aggression and genocide against the South Ossetian people and shooting at Russian peacekeepers was not restricted to the “habitual” actions of Ukrainian nationalist volunteers, but practiced in the operations of ordinary Ukrainian troops. This should be interpreted according to the norms of international military law as having constituted an act of military aggression against Russia.
This is how the Ukrainian government “thanked” Russia for its enormous and timely assistance to the victims of landslides and floods in the Carpathian Mountains in Western Ukraine in July 2008. During that period, Russian aid more than doubled the total humanitarian aid from all NATO countries combined.
Kiev, meanwhile, consistently spoke out in favor of the “restoration” of Georgia’s “territorial integrity” and, while formally declaring its commitment to existing agreements on the nonuse of force, actively supplied offensive and defensive weapons to Tbilisi. According to UN data, in 2007 Ukraine was a key supplier of arms and military vehicles and equipment to Georgia. Ukrainian arms manufacturers profited off of modernizing Soviet T-72 tanks, 74 of which were delivered to Georgia in 2007 and updated to NATO standards.
Supplying arms in a frozen conflict zone to a state with a fragile democratic system (Ex-Georgian President Saakashvili, like his former friend Ukrainian President Poroshenko, came to power as the result of an armed coup d’etat) was itself an impetus for war. Already at this stage, Kiev’s actions were “unfriendly” towards Russia.
This “unfriendliness”, however, turned into open hostility when Georgia began bombing and launching rocket strikes on South Ossetia, which was followed by Russia’s intervention.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine then adopted a statement which prohibited the ships of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet taking part in the blockade of Georgia from returning to their base in Sevastopol. Such a state declaration grossly violated the existing agreement on basing Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol and was quickly backpedaled by Kiev in view of the obvious legal and technical insolvencies of the move.
Russia’s reaction was swift. The Russian foreign ministry accused Ukraine of directly contributing to ethnic cleansing and Georgian intervention in South Ossetia. As said in a statement by the Department of Information and Press of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ukrainian arms supplies to Georgia directly encouraged the Georgian leadership to embark on intervention in South Ossetia.
As military experts on the course of events of August 2008 have pointed out, the Ukrainians are most likely of all responsible for the fairly high combat losses of Russian air forces. Lieutenant-General, Professor, and Academician of the Russian Security Academy, Yuri Netkaev, who also served as Deputy Commander of the Russian Forces Group in Transcaucasia from 1993-2000, has explained: “Russian aircraft were probably shot down by ‘Buk’ or ‘Osa’ air defense systems. Unfortunately, experts on these systems are not to be found in NATO countries, but in neighboring countries. The best school on these systems is in Ukraine.” The latter testimony is far from the only one. The President of the Republic of South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoity, has testified that Ukrainians were seen driving tanks.
The Ukrainian parliamentary opposition at the time, namely, the Party of Regions and the Communist Party of Ukraine, demanded in an official peal to the Ukrainian president to withdraw all Ukrainian servicemen from Georgian territory. Before news of the start of military aggression even came, a group of Ukrainian special forces had been conducting war games in Georgia at the mountain training center near the town of Sachkhere. According to information available from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, these special forces were deployed to familiarize themselves “with the experience of the mountain-infantry units of NATO partner countries, [learn] how to organize cooperation during operations in mountain areas, and master the relevant standards of NATO member states’ armies.” It was presumed that these Ukrainian special forces would stay in Georgia until August 24th.
As subsequently came to light, however, Ukrainian special forces became cohorts in Georgian aggression and took part in fighting against Russian peacekeepers and the Russian troops that entered Georgia to force the Tbilisi regime to make peace. Telling testimony has been provided by a Russian soldier who was captured by Ukrainian forces. Russian and South Ossetian volunteers, including personal acquaintances of the author, have also spoken of clashes with Ukrainian special forces.
The Russian television journalist Arkady Mamontov even filmed a documentary on Ukrainian air defense systems shooting down Russian planes which included anecdotal interviews with Ukrainian officers who participated in the events. The evidence base is therefore quite sufficient to charge Ukraine with complicity in the aggression against South Ossetia and Russian peacekeepers. However, for unknown reasons, no such charges were pressed. Perhaps Moscow hoped to improve bilateral relations with the new Ukrainian leadership. But as we now know, these hopes were illusory.
To a certain extent, the events of August 2008 were a rehearsal for Ukrainian aggression against Russia. Now Ukraine is dependent on the collective West’s support and hopes that Russia will remain indecisive. Both then and now, Ukraine employs terrorist methods not only against civilians (South Ossetia, Donbass), but against Russia as well. Yet another coincidence is that both then and now Russia shows remarkable restraint, not reacting to terrorist acts by the Ukrainian side.
Literally just the other day, the Rostov District Military Court heard a case of a Ukrainian mercenary working for the SBU on the instructions of which he was ordered to arrange three explosions along the Rostov region railway. This challenge or provocation by the Ukrainian state, like Ukrainian paratroopers’ attack on Russian border guards in late 2016, has gone unanswered. This might encourage Ukraine to escalate terrorist operations on the territory of Russia.
Originally published on fort-russ.com