Putin wont stop at Ukraine as Russias neighbour Georgia fears next steps

Ukraine: Aerial footage appears to show Russian trenches

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Thousands of Ukrainians are currently thought to be fleeing the Donbas in eastern Ukraine as Russia steps up its offensive. Parts of the region have been controlled by Russian separatist groups since 2014 following the Euromaidan protest movement. Russia is thought to have heavily influenced those living in the region through a campaign of propaganda and disinformation.

It was the first area that Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops in to “keep the peace”, as he described it.

While Russia has pledged to scale-back its military operations in the north of the country around Kyiv, it is thought that personnel will be redeployed to southern and eastern Ukraine to redouble the already tight grip Russia has there.

Ukraine has largely held off Russia from making serious gains, but the repeated and incessant shelling and bombing of cities — especially those like Mariupol and Kharkiv — has led President Volodymyr Zelensky to concede that Ukraine will never join NATO.

Putin claims one of the main reasons for his invasion is to prevent NATO’s eastward expansion to Russia’s border, and for now appears to have succeeded in this.

But the fact has left some of Russia’s neighbours — including those who are a part of the EU and NATO — fearful that they could be next.

Georgia has become one of the main focuses for experts as, unlike the Baltic states — all EU and NATO members — it has yet to be accepted into either organisation, despite being promised NATO membership in 2008 along with Ukraine.

And, like Ukraine, the idea of joining NATO is now enshrined in its constitution.

Now, Natia Seskuria, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and Georgian citizen, says the country fears that it could be next in having to forget its NATO ambitions in the face of Russian aggression.

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She told Express.co.uk: “In a way this concerns Georgians because I don’t think Putin will stop at Ukraine.

“In one way or another — and I’m not suggesting that there will be another war in Georgia — if Ukraine changes its constitution in regards to NATO membership, I think Georgia will be the next ones who are pushed towards the same direction.

“That is definitely something that concerns every single Georgian today.”

The Russo-Georgia war kicked-off on August 1, 2008, following years of pent-up tensions over the rebel-head, pro-Russian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both of which had declared themselves as republics.


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Both South Ossetia and Abkhazia had been considered conflict zones since the Nineties, following Georgian independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

At the beginning of the 2008 conflict, Russian-backed South Ossetian forces started shelling Georgian villages, with a sporadic response from Georgian peacekeepers in the area.

The fighting intensified, and Georgia sent in military units to stop the attacks.

On August 7, some Russian troops are thought to have illicitly crossed the border into the South Ossetian conflict zone, and shortly after Russia launched a full-scale land, air and sea invasion of Georgia, including in its undisputed territory.

Russia described its military endeavours as a “peace enforcement” operation.

It managed to force the Georgian military to retreat and blockaded much of its Black Sea coastline, targeting areas both within and outside the conflict zone.

It was not until then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy negotiated a ceasefire on August 12 that the fighting stopped.

Just months before the conflict, in April 2008, NATO had agreed that Georgia would become a NATO member, meaning that the allied organisation would flank Russia’s border with the Caucasus.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked political turmoil in Georgia, with citizens seemingly at odds with their government’s actions.

While many Georgians have taken to the streets to protest Moscow’s actions, the Georgian government has been more cautious in its approach.

When European countries slapped harsh sanctions on Russia, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili refused to impose similar curbs.

What the government has done, however, is make a complete policy U-turn and sped up its EU application in the face of Russian aggression.

Mr Garibashvili announced in early March — just days after saying he would not accelerate Georgia’s membership aspirations — that the country would apply for EU membership.

This was a day after Ukraine made its formal application for membership of the bloc.

Only shortly before this had the chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Irakli Kobakhidze, told journalists that speeding up Georgia’s application to the EU “could be counterproductive because we have to satisfy certain terms over the [next] two years”.

Mr Zelensky, responding to Mr Garibashvili’s hesitancy to impose sanctions, has accused Georgia of “holding an immoral position regarding sanctions” and recalled the Ukrainian ambassador to Georgia.

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