The conflict erupted on August 7, 2008 when Georgia attempted to retake control of South Ossetia following a series of clashes with separatists wanting to align the region with Russia.
Russian forces repelled the assault and began pushing further into Georgia. The clashes lasted for five days before a ceasefire was agreed. Russia pulled back but continued to build up its military presence in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. At the height of the conflict, tens of thousands of civilians on both sides were displaced. Thousands of South Ossetian civilians remain homeless. As many as 25,000 Georgians have been unable to return to South Ossetia. The West condemned Russia’s response as “disproportionate” and the EU and NATO both froze dialogue with Russia. In the following months though relations with Russia – a vital energy supplier to much of western Europe – improved, while political analysts say Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s standing with the West has waned. An EU-commissioned inquiry into the causes of the war should deliver its findings next month.