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We were escorted to the "occupation line" by a convoy of trucks. When we arrived, 10 heavily armed members of the Georgian security services fanned out along the barrier that divides Georgia from Georgia — or, if you ask Moscow, from the Republic of South Ossetia.

Expand chart
Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Why it matters: No issue is more critical to the Georgian people and the future of the country than the Russian occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But while everyone we met with in Tbilisi raised the issue, they all acknowledged they lacked a solution.

  • Where things stand: Russia controls one-fifth of Georgia's territory. A "borderization" process that began in 2011 has seen barriers go up that can only be crossed via a few tightly controlled entry points. The Georgians say the Russians are moving the barriers outward meter by meter. Abductions along the dividing line have stirred outrage.
  • By the numbers: There are roughly 240,000 people living in Abkhazia and 50,000 in South Ossetia. Another 260,000 peopledisplaced by the conflict live in Georgia. Some 2,500 ethnic Georgians remain in South Ossetia and are forced to speak and study Russian. There are 3 Russian military bases housing 10,000 troops within South Ossetia, as well as 20 FSB (intelligence) outposts, a briefer from the Georgian security services told us.

The bigger picture: South Ossetia is one of several "frozen zones" in the post-Soviet space. Those living there have almost no contact with the rest of Georgia, except when they are allowed to travel south for medical treatment. Policymakers told us making contact wherever possible — business ties, humanitarian support — is the best way to begin to resolve the conflict. They also said the Russians know that and are determined to prevent it.

Life on the dividing line
An ethnic Georgian man who lives just on the far side of the occupation line. He chose not to leave his home before the barrier went up. Photo: Dave Lawler/Axios
Members of the Georgian security services on the occupation line with South Ossetia. Photo: Dave Lawler/Axios

Go deeper: Dispatch from Georgia.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Facebook exec warns of "more bad headlines"

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

In a post to staffers Saturday obtained by Axios, Facebook VP of global affairs Nick Clegg warned the company that worse coverage could be on the way: “We need to steel ourselves for more bad headlines in the coming days, I’m afraid.”

Catch up quick: Roughly two dozen news outlets had agreed to hold stories based on leaked materials from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen for Monday publication — but the embargo fell apart Friday night as participating newsrooms posted a batch of articles ahead of the weekend.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

Inside Biden's Taiwan flubs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Twice this year, President Biden has blurted out commitments that the U.S. is prepared to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion — forcing the White House to walk back his statements and leading to confusion over a high-stakes national security policy.

Why it matters: U.S. defense officials have publicly aired their concerns that China will take Taiwan by force in the next four to six years, perhaps sooner. The president's position on this question may soon have real-world, life and death consequences.