The International Criminal Court 27 this January authorized the prosecutor of this court to initiate an investigation of war crimes committed during the armed conflict in South Ossetia in 2008 year. The date 08.08.08 - the day the Georgian troops attacked - became a symbol of this tragedy. The Chairman of the Investigative Committee of Russia, Alexander Bastrykin, in an exclusive interview with the RG, named by name Georgian military leaders accused in a criminal case under investigation in Russia on events in South Ossetia.
Alexander Ivanovich, tell us how the Russian investigation on the criminal case related to the events in South Ossetia in 2008 took place.
Alexander Bastrykin: An unprecedented investigative work was carried out in the criminal case, both in scale and in complexity.
Judge for yourself, during the investigation of the criminal case, more than 1000 incident sites were examined, including residential buildings, administrative buildings, energy facilities, communications, social infrastructure, positions of the battalion of peacekeeping forces located in the city of Tskhinval and other settlements of South Ossetia.
Recognized by physical evidence over 3000 items and documents. Appointed and conducted around 900 forensic, handwriting, explosive and other forensic examinations. Interrogated over 1500 witnesses. More than 6000 people were recognized as victims, including 270 soldiers of the Russian peacekeeping contingent who received injuries of varying degrees of severity.
The volume of the criminal case is more than 500 volumes.
In addition, work was carried out to verify more than 600 statements about crimes committed by Russian servicemen in the territory of more than 60 Georgian settlements. In order to verify the information contained in the appeals, the servicemen of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation were identified and interrogated as witnesses and victims of more than 2500, staff, operational and service and other documents of more than 50 of the Russian military units and formations that participated in the coercive operation were received and examined. Georgia to the world.
For the purpose of completeness and objectivity of the investigation, during the period of 2008-2012, Russian investigators sent more than 10 requests for legal assistance to the competent authorities of Georgia, but the Georgian side did not respond to them.
What circumstances were established by the Russian investigation?
Alexander Bastrykin: Already at the initial stage of the investigation, it became obvious that the actions of the highest political and military leadership of Georgia, as well as the soldiers of the Georgian army, were aimed at the deliberate destruction of the Ossetian ethnic group living in South Ossetia.
To this end, from 8 to 10 in August 2008, the city of Tskhinvali, the villages of Khetagurovo, Dmenis, Tbet, Znaur, Leningor and other towns of the Republic of South Ossetia were subjected to mass artillery shelling.
At the same time, in violation of the Convention on the prohibition or restriction of the use of specific types of customary weapons, which can be considered to cause excessive damage or have indiscriminate effect (Geneva, 10.10.1980/9/27), the Georgian armed forces used Grad multiple launch rocket systems with 9M210K rockets, having a cluster head unit with 500HXNUMX fragmentation warheads, as well as XNUMX kg aviation FAB-500 bombs.
The Georgian side also used aircraft. In particular, the facts of the use of at least two Su-25 planes of the Armed Forces of Georgia during the fighting have been established. In the process of further “stripping”, the Georgian military carried out billing of places from which civilians hiding in basements conducted telephone conversations, after which artillery strikes were made on these places.
As a result of these actions, 162 civilians were killed by civilians of the Republic of South Ossetia, 255 civilians were injured, civilians were damaged, 2139 residential buildings were destroyed and burned, utilities and life-support facilities, hospitals, children's and educational institutions were completely or partially destroyed. More than 16 thousands of residents of the Republic of South Ossetia were forced to leave their permanent places of residence.
I repeat that all these criminal acts were committed with a single intent aimed at the targeted destruction of the Ossetian ethnic group living in South Ossetia, as international humanitarian law and Russian legislation qualifies as genocide.
Why did Georgian troops need to bomb the Russian contingent of peacekeeping forces?
Alexander Bastrykin: The Russian peacekeeping battalion was attacked precisely because it could thwart the plans of the Georgian leadership. In principle, the Georgian troops had the opportunity to bypass the territory of the deployment of our troops, but did not do this, but decided to simply destroy it.
To this end, on August 8, 2008, at 5 o’clock in the morning in the area of the village of Zemo Nikozi, the formation of an armored column of the Georgian Armed Forces, consisting of infantry, began tanks, armored vehicles, jeep vehicles on which machine guns and automatic easel grenade launchers were installed.
This column moved in the direction of the southwestern part of Tskhinval proud and around 6 hours 35 minutes began a massive shelling of the Russian peacekeeping battalion of small arms, mortars, artillery and tank guns. The shelling, including at night, with small interruptions continued until the evening of August 9.
At the same time, it was established that the tanks of the Georgian Armed Forces fired from a distance that excluded the possibility of their being defeated by servicemen of the Russian peacekeeping battalion, which, in accordance with international agreements, did not have heavy weapons, which the Georgian command was known to.
Particularly noteworthy are the facts established by the investigation of deliberately conducting intensive aimed fire at the medical unit of the military unit (64787 field post) and the battalion medical vehicles equipped with the red cross symbols and peacekeeping symbols that are under special international legal protection.
As a result of an unprovoked attack by Georgian military formations and regular troops on the location of the Russian peacekeeping battalion perpetrated during the August 8-9 period, the said unit lost 10 people killed and 40 soldiers wounded of varying degrees of severity. In addition, the infrastructure of the peacekeeping battalion, as well as virtually all of its military equipment, was completely destroyed. The buildings of the Joint Staff are partially damaged, the communications center is disabled.
Remembering the war in South Ossetia August 2008 of the year
What conclusions did the investigation come to?
Alexander Bastrykin: It was a mean, pre-planned and carefully thought out action. At the same time, neither the residents of South Ossetia nor the Russian peacekeepers gave any reason for the invasion.
The fact that the attack on Russian peacekeepers was carefully planned and carried out on the orders of the top leadership in the country at that time was indicated by many facts, including the sheer scale of the aggression, the analysis of orders and official documents of the Georgian military command, and the coordination of individual units Georgian Armed Forces.
500 volumes is the volume of the criminal case on the tragic events in South Ossetia, which was investigated by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation
In particular, the fact that the day before the invasion, Georgian officers, citing orders from the higher command, left the location of the Joint Headquarters of the Joint Peacekeeping Force in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone, and all military observers from Georgia’s bilateral posts left the positions of the posts .
For which of the former military and political leadership of the country do you conduct criminal prosecution?
Alexander Bastrykin: In a criminal case, decisions were made to prosecute the former Georgian Defense Minister Kezerashvili, the former Interior Minister of Georgia Merabishvili, the former commander of the Fourth Infantry Brigade of the Land Forces of the Georgian Armed Forces, Kalandadze, the former commander of the Air Force and the air defense of Georgia Narashishshishshire, the former Commander of the Air Force and the Air Defense of Georgia Narashishshishshire, Commander of the peacekeeping operations of the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces of Georgia Kurashvili.
Are you satisfied with this decision of the International Criminal Court and are you counting on an objective investigation?
Alexander Bastrykin: I would love to believe it. However, unfortunately, the facts so far indicate the opposite. Thus, as a subject of investigation, this court identified war crimes and crimes against humanity, which, according to preliminary conclusions, were committed by the armed forces not of Georgia, but of South Ossetia, and against ethnic Georgians. That is, the ICC turned the circumstances of the case "upside down", leaving behind the scope of the investigation subject the facts of massacres and injuries of the Ossetian part of the population of South Ossetia and the forced relocation from 16 thousands of Ossetians. Moreover, this conclusion was made in spite of the irrefutable evidence that was sent by the Investigative Committee to the prosecutor of the ICC at the request of the International Criminal Court itself. And these are copies of the criminal case file of more than 33 volumes, as well as a significant amount of photo and video materials. The explanations to the materials were given by the staff of the Investigative Committee during the working visits of representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office of the ICC to the Russian Federation.
Also, the ICC ignored the decision of the UN International Court of Justice in The Hague on April 1 of 2011, which discontinued the suit of Georgia against the Russian Federation on the application of the norms of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
What other conclusions of the International Criminal Court seemed strange to you?
Alexander Bastrykin: The ICC has previously qualified the events in South Ossetia as an international armed conflict between Russia and Georgia, during which Russia controlled the actions of South Ossetian authorities.
In my opinion, in this way, the ICC set the vector for the investigation and began to put the circumstances of the case under the dubious judicial doctrine of “de facto control over the territory”, which was formulated in a number of other biased decisions of international judicial bodies directed against the interests of Russia. For example, by a decision of 19 in November 2012 of the year “Catan and others against Moldova and the Russian Federation”, the European Court of Human Rights found Russia guilty of violating the rights of 170 of Moldovan citizens through the abolition of schools in Transnistria where Moldovan language was taught. At the same time, the court pointed out that, in fact, the territory of Transnistria is controlled by Russia, in connection with which he freed Moldova from responsibility, and imposed sanctions on the violation of rights by Transnistrian authorities on Russia.
What can you say about the legal assessment of the South Ossetian events as an international military conflict between Georgia and Russia?
Alexander Bastrykin: During the investigation of the criminal case, no data were established that could be the basis for such a legal assessment. After the events I described above, the operation to force Georgia to peace was exclusively aimed at protecting the life and health of the Russian peacekeeping forces stationed in South Ossetia and the citizens of the Russian Federation living there. These actions obliged us including the Russian Constitution. If we qualify the events from the point of view of the Geneva Conventions 1949 of the year, which regulate the legal regime of armed conflict, then most likely it would be logical to give them the status of an armed conflict of a non-international character. Let me remind you that these conventions define a non-international armed conflict as a conflict localized in the territory of one of the participating countries, arising between its armed forces and anti-government forces or other armed groups under the command and exercising such control over the part of the country continuous and concerted military action.
In addition, concluding that Russia controlled the actions of the authorities of South Ossetia, the ICC completely ignored the fact that at that time there were mixed peacekeeping forces consisting of peacekeeping contingents of Georgia, South Ossetia and Russia, which jointly and consistently controlled the processes and ensured peace. It should also be noted that at that time Russia recognized the belonging of South Ossetia to the territory of Georgia. This position has changed after the armed attack on the inhabitants of the republic of Ossetian nationality. In addition, we should not forget that the South Ossetian conflict itself arose long before the events of 2008 of the year, at the beginning of 1990, when Russia simply could not have any influence on the authorities of South Ossetia. In one of my interviews with the Rossiyskaya Gazeta, devoted to the investigation of events in Ukraine, I said that there are reasonable grounds for asserting that the armed conflicts that arose at that time and continued later on in the territory of the post-Soviet countries were largely provoked and financed from - abroad. It was in the spirit of these ideas that the US-controlled Mikhail Saakashvili came to power in Georgia in 2003 as a result of the so-called “revolution of roses”. He, in principle, did not even hide it. In addition, it was the United States that at that time financed the supply of Georgia with military weapons used in the South Ossetian conflict and trained Georgian servicemen. Thus, if we already apply the doctrine of actual control, then it would be logical to do this not for Russia, but for the United States.