On June 9, South Ossetia, one of two regions of Georgia occupied by Russia, held what its leaders called parliamentary elections. They were illegitimate.
South Ossetia has been occupied for more than a decade. In August 2008, a five-day war instigated by Russia broke out in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In South Ossetia alone, the fighting left 1,500 dead, mostly civilians. An additional 138,000 people were internally displaced, and some 10,000 of them still live in long-term displacement. The war eventually led to Russia’s illegal recognition of South Ossetia as an independent nation.
Syria, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Nauru also recognized South Ossetia as independent, mostly thanks to Russian bribes. For example, Nauru’s declaration came after Moscow offered the tiny island nation $51 million in humanitarian aid. Venezuela came on board when Moscow loaned the Chavez regime $2.2 billion to purchase Russian arms.
Russia today occupies Georgia’s entire region of South Ossetia, and Moscow continues to encroach on Georgian territory through creeping annexation, a method by which Russian and Russia-backed security forces claim new territory by moving barbed-wire fences.
Since Georgia abides by a unilateral non-use-of-force pledge introduced in November 2010, and because the creeping annexation is below the threshold of what would garner international attention, there is little that Tbilisi can do to prevent it.
United Ossetia’s main platform is that South and North Ossetia (which is part of Russia) should be unified “as a component of a multinational Russian state.” Nearly all the other registered political parties in South Ossetia agree on this point.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry has openly condemned South Ossetia for holding the so-called elections. According to the ministry, “[t]he ongoing so-called parliamentary elections in occupied South Ossetia blatantly violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders.”
The United States also does not recognize the elections as legitimate. In a statement on June 10, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said, “[o]ur position in South Ossetia remains clear. These regions are integral parts of Georgia.”
The European Union agrees with Georgia and the United States. Brussels said it would not recognize the “constitutional and legislative frameworks” in which the elections were held.
These strong stances against the so-called elections are extremely important, because they demonstrate that what occurred was fraudulent and illegal.
Meanwhile, the people in the region continue to suffer under Russian domination. Testifying before the U.S. Helsinki Commission last year, Georgian Ambassador to the United States David Bakradze condemned Russia’s illegal occupation and influence in South Ossetia. The human rights situation there, he asserted, “remains alarming, with fundamental rights of the local population infringed on a daily basis.”
Trying to give the elections a patina of legitimacy, Moscow last December announced that it had invited members of the Syrian parliament to observe the elections in South Ossetia. Russian Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Policy and Inter-Parliamentary Activity Igor Kochiyev stated, “[w]e always invite our colleagues as observers, when elections are held in [South Ossetia].”
This is frankly absurd, considering that Syria is led by a dictator, Bashar al-Assad, who enjoys the title of president solely because his 2014 “election” -- and the election of his parliamentary supporters -- was blatantly rigged.
Russia will continue to meddle in Georgia’s affairs, particularly in South Ossetia. And South Ossetia will continue to align with Russia rather than Georgia for the foreseeable future. However, the world must remember that South Ossetia is Georgia’s, and Georgia’s alone. Illegitimate parliamentary elections cannot change that fact.
This piece originally appeared in RealClearWorld