34 Yale J. Int'l L. 241 (2009)
The Exceptions that Disprove the Rule - The Impact of Abkhazia and South Ossentia on Exceptions to the Sovereignty Principle

handle is hein.journals/yjil34 and id is 243 raw text is: Recent Developments

The Exceptions That Disprove the Rule? The Impact of Abkhazia and
South Ossetia on Exceptions to the Sovereignty Principle. By Gregory
Dubinsky
On August 7, 2008, Georgia initiated a military operation to seize South
Ossetia, a separatist region within internationally recognized Georgian
territory. Russia, whose troops were stationed as peacekeepers in South
Ossetia, responded with force and expelled the Georgian military. The origins
of the conflict are a matter of dispute. Critics of Russia argue that its presence
in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another separatist region, was aimed at
perpetuating Georgia's internal divisions, while others hold Georgia
responsible for provoking the conflict and for aggressive actions against its
purported citizens.' On August 26, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
announced Moscow's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as
independent states.2 To date, only Nicaragua has followed suit.3 Russia's
controversial decision followed on the heels of another prominent secession:
in February, the United States and several European Union members, among
others, recognized the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo, a
province of Serbia that had been under U.N. administration since 1999.
Kosovo's declaration of independence explicitly stated that it was a special
case related to the breakup      of Yugoslavia and     not a precedent. 4
Nonetheless, Kosovo's declaration of independence was met by protests from
Russia and other states with minorities that have potential claims to
nationhood. As Medvedev said in an interview with the BBC on August 26:
If Kosovo is a special case, [Georgia] is also a special case.5 Given Russia's
rejection of Kosovo's special claim to independence, this statement can mean
one of two things: both are special cases, or neither is.
These recent events have revived the sovereignty debates surrounding
other disputed territories in the post-Soviet space. Two of these de facto
states-Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan and Transnistria in Moldova-claim
independence based on grievances not dissimilar in principle from those of
Kosovo, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. The creation of each of these de facto
states is a product of the breakup of multiethnic states and, with the possible
exception of Transnistria, each premises its claim to independence on ethnic
1.   Georgia's claims that its invasion of South Ossetia was an act of self-defense against
imminent Russian aggression have since been largely discredited. See INT'L CRISIS GROUP, RUSSIA VS
GEORGIA: THE FALLOUT (2008), available at http://www.crisisgroup.orgfhomc/index.cfm?id=5636; C.J.
Chivers & Ellen Barry, Georgia Claims on Russia War Called into Question, N.Y. TIMES, Nov. 6, 2008,
at Al.
2.   President Dmitry Medvedev, Statement, Aug. 26, 2008, available at http://www.
kremlin.n/eng/text/speeches/2008/08/26/1543_type82912_205752.shtml.
3.   Nicaragua Recognizes South Ossetia and Abkhazia, REUTERS, Sept. 3, 2008, available at
http://www.reuters.cornarticle/gc07/idUSN0330438620080903.
4.   Text of Kosovo's Declaration of Independence, Feb. 17, 2008, available at http://www.
usatoday.com/news/world/2008-02-17-kosovo-independence-text N.htm.
5.  Interview with Dmitry Medvedev (BBC television broadcast Aug. 26, 2008), available at
http://www.un.int/russia/new/MainRoot/docslwarfarelstatement260808en6.htm.

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