Opposition lawmakers in occupied Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia failed yesterday to impeach Anatoly Bibilov, Kremlin-backed leader, over alleged attempt on ceding 200 square kilometers of territory to the central Georgian Government.
The proposal was pushed forward by 14 deputies in the 34-member legislature earlier in January, hoping to garner the support three-quarters of sitting lawmakers. But only 13 deputies backed the motion yesterday and one went against, while pro-Bibilov United Ossetia party, as well as Unity of the People and communist MPs did not participate in the voting, Tskhinvali-based RES news agency reported.
The development comes some three months before the “presidential elections” in the region, in which Bibilov is seeking re-election.
What Land Ceding? The Background
The opposition lawmakers claim that the draft law submitted by Bibilov to the legislature back in 2019 that sought to approve the “state border” – that did not pass back then – would lead to the region giving up claims on 200 km2 territory to Georgia proper.
The issue came into prominence only in November 2021 after new “State Commission on Delimitation and Demarcation of Borders with Georgia” – created under Bibilov’s decree in April — found that the boundaries proposed by Bibilov’s administration contained 200 km2 less territory compared to that envisaged in April 1922 Soviet decree that created the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast.
The opposition deputies believe that the boundaries shall follow the description given in the historic 1922 decree, since the separatists seeking independence from Tbilisi in 1992 took it as the basis of proclamation of the “republic.”
Seemingly, the administrative boundaries of the S. Ossetian Autonomous Oblast within the Georgian SSR shifted somewhat throughout the 70-years of Soviet rule, and no detailed map is available of the April 1922 decree, that the S. Ossetian lawmakers and current members of the delimitation commission are now interpreting to their own liking.
The claims affect mainly western and southern portions of Tskhinvali Region occupation line, with Bibilov’s opponents seeking to absorb Tbilisi-controlled territories of Nikozi, Arbo, Gugutiantkari and Mereti villages, among others. The affected territories include houses, orchards, and cemeteries of Georgians.
During the heated exchange in the legislature in Tskhinvali on December 30, “president” Anatoly Bibilov shifted the blame to his opponents. He said Moscow recognized the region’s independence in 2008 within its current “borders,” not with the ones outlined in the 1922 Soviet decree.
He also stressed that back then in 2008, the agreement was accepted under his predecessors, not his administration. Bibilov asserted that many of the opposition MPs served under previous administration that time.
Also, Bibilov noted that if the claims on the boundaries are made as per 1922 decree, the villages of Gujabauri, sandwiched between Tskhinvali and Georgia-controlled territory, as well as village Orchosani, close to Georgia’s major east-west highway, should be given to Georgia proper.
The Government of Georgia has repeatedly denounced “unlawful” and “provocative” calls from Moscow, as well as Tskhinvali and Sokhumi on the demarcation-delimitation of the occupation line as “completely unacceptable.”