the russo-georgian war was a war between georgia, russia and the russian-backed self-proclaimed republics of south ossetia and abkhazia.[note 3] the war took place in august 2008 following a period of worsening relations between russia and georgia, both formerly constituent republics of the soviet union. the fighting took place in the strategically important transcaucasia region. it was regarded as the first european war of the 21st century.
the republic of georgia declared its independence in early 1991 as the soviet union began to fall apart. amidst this backdrop, a war between georgia and separatists left parts of the former south ossetian autonomous oblast under the de facto control of russian-backed but internationally unrecognised separatists. following the war, a joint peacekeeping force of georgian, russian, and ossetian troops was stationed in the territory. a similar stalemate developed in the region of abkhazia, where abkhaz separatists had waged war in 1992–1993. following the election of vladimir putin in russia in 2000 and a pro-western change of power in georgia in 2003, relations between russia and georgia began to deteriorate, reaching a full diplomatic crisis by april 2008. by 1 august 2008, south ossetian separatists had begun shelling georgian villages, with a sporadic response from georgian peacekeepers in the area. artillery attacks by pro-russian separatists broke a 1992 ceasefire agreement. to put an end to these attacks and restore order, the georgian army was sent to the south ossetian conflict zone on 7 august. georgians took control of most of tskhinvali, a separatist stronghold, in hours.
russian troops had illicitly crossed the russo-georgian state border and advanced into the south ossetian conflict zone by 7 august before the georgian military response. russia accused georgia of "aggression against south ossetia", and launched a large-scale land, air and sea invasion of georgia on 8 august with the stated goal of a peace enforcement operation. russian and south ossetian forces fought georgian forces in and around south ossetia for several days, until georgian forces retreated. russian and abkhaz forces opened a second front by attacking the kodori gorge held by georgia. russian naval forces blockaded part of the georgian coast. the russian air force attacked targets beyond the conflict zone, in undisputed parts of georgia. this was the first war in history in which cyber warfare coincided with military action. an information war was also waged during and after the conflict. nicolas sarkozy, the president of france, which had the presidency of the european union, negotiated a ceasefire agreement on 12 august.
russian forces temporarily occupied the georgian cities of zugdidi, senaki, poti and gori, holding on to these areas beyond the ceasefire. the south ossetians destroyed most ethnic georgian villages in south ossetia and were responsible for an ethnic cleansing of georgians. russia recognised the independence of abkhazia and south ossetia from georgia on 26 august and the georgian government severed diplomatic relations with russia. russia mostly completed its withdrawal of troops from undisputed parts of georgia on 8 october. russian international relations were largely unharmed. the war displaced 192,000 people and while many returned to their homes after the war, 20,272 people, mostly ethnic georgians, remained displaced as of 2014. since the war, russia has occupied abkhazia and south ossetia in violation of the ceasefire agreement of august 2008.