ABKHAZIA WAS DECLARED MINE FREE ON 3RD NOVEMBER 2011
Both Georgian and Abkhaz forces used landmines extensively during the war of 1992-93. Mines were also used in varying degrees between the May 1994 cease-fire and the late 1990s by individuals and small groups, primarily in relation to criminal activities.
The landmines laid during the war were concentrated along well defined lines of conflict and key terrain. The Gumista and Inguri rivers, the Gali Canal, the Kodori Valley and Abkhazia’s main road were all heavily mined areas of tactical importance. Post conflict these mined areas prevented the safe resumption of agricultural activities and light industry. They also denied safe transit to the population of Abkhazia.
HALO conducted an extensive landmine survey of Abkhazia between 1997 and 2000 in close cooperation with both sides from the conflict.
Although all known minefields have been cleared, Abkhazia is mountainous and sparsely populated and it is possible that small, currently unknown minefields will be discovered. A capacity is needed to deal with such finds and in 2012 four previously-unknown mined paths were discovered and cleared by HALO.
Furthermore, significant quantities of unexploded and abandoned ordnance continue to be found and present a danger to the public. These items need to be dealt with promptly when found in order to minimise this threat.
Following the 1990-1992 Georgian-Ossetian war, there was persistent low-level minelaying, primarily in areas between Georgian and South Ossetian controlled villages. The HALO Trust has been unable to gain sufficient access to South Ossetia to assess the landmine threat fully; however there have been reports of at least 17 landmine casualties in recent years.
SOVIET LEGACY MINEFIELDS
There is a small number of areas outside Georgia’s conflict zones where mines and unexploded ordnance continue to cause casualties. These include former military bases, border minefields and training areas which have returned to civilian use. Whilst the minefield problem is relatively small and well defined, it nonetheless has a significant impact.
In 2009 a national survey of minefields remaining in Georgia found a total of 15 contaminated sites. Of these 15, nine are minefields identified as having a direct humanitarian impact (the remaining six sites are fenced, active military establishments and have no civilian access). Between 2009 and the end of 2012 HALO cleared five of the minefields with a humanitarian impact and has identified one additional small minefield.
SHIDA KARTLI REGION (AUGUST 2008 CONFLICT)
The Russian military, in support of South Ossetian forces, fought with the Georgian Army over a four day period around the South Ossetian city of Tskhinvali in August 2008. Although minefields were not laid during this conflict, the heavy use of aircraft bombing, artillery and mortars resulted in widespread Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and cluster munition contamination of this area. This contamination spread with the retreat of Georgian forces from Tskhinvali to the town of Gori in Georgia.
Concurrently, targets were bombed elsewhere in Georgia, including the Upper Kodori region of Abkhazia. This contamination was largely limited to individual aircraft bomb and rocket strikes, which were quickly addressed and cleared. The majority of remaining contamination was limited to a 20km wide corridor between Gori and Tskhinvali where the high-intensity conflict took place. The main threat was a result of the extensive use of cluster munitions, but rocket strikes and much abandoned ammunition also needed to be cleared.