Russia appointed Marat Kulakhmetov as ambassador to South Ossetia on 23 May, replacing Elbrus Kargiyev, who had served in the post since Russia officially recognised South Ossetia’s independence in 2008.
From 2004–2008 Kulakhmetov headed the Joint Peacekeeping Forces — a force comprising of Georgian, Russian, and South Ossetian troops — who patrolled South Ossetia’s borders prior to the 2008 War in South Ossetia. In October 2008 Russian media reported that Kulakhmetov was wounded in a ‘terrorist attack’ at a Russian peacekeeping headquarters in Tskhinvali (Tskhinval). Seven people died in what Kulakhmetov said was an explosion of a car with Georgian licence plates.
Since 2011, Kulakhmetov served as an advisor to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
South Ossetia’s newly elected leader Anatoly Bibilov formally served under Kulakhmetov’s command as the deputy commander of the Joint Peacekeeping Forces’ North Ossetian battalion. Bibilov won presidential elections in South Ossetia on 9 April with 58% of the vote, unseating incumbent Leonid Tibilov, who came in second with 30% of votes.
Georgia, who claims that South Ossetia is part of their territory under Russian military occupation, denounced the move, saying that any decision made under Russia’s ‘recognition policy’ without Georgian involvement violates Georgia’s territorial integrity.
According to Georgian state-run news agency Agenda, State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Viktor Dolidze described the appointment as a ‘cynical’ move by Putin, claiming it is ‘another provocative step’.
For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.