The relationship between Georgia and Russia has always been tense, particularly in the contentious Georgian republic of South Ossetia that is home to just 70,000 people.

It had maintained a de facto independence along with the Georgian republic of Abkhazia since early 1992. However with Georgia’s government pursuing NATO membership and seeking western political backing, a confrontation with its self-assured neighbour was never far away.

On 7 August 2008, after many weeks of brinkmanship from both sides, this frozen conflict from the Soviet era heated up.

Georgia declared its intention to restore constitutional order in the republics and launched a large-scale military offensive.

On the evening of 7 August, the Georgian military began bombing the South Ossteian capital of Tskhinvali. Russia retaliated by sending thousands of troops into South Ossetia and Abkhazia and installing Russian officials in a bid to reclaim the two republics.

Fighting continued until French President Nikolas Sarkozy helped mediate a truce between the two countries in September 2008. By that time Russian troops had moved to within 30km of the Georgian capital Tbilisi, reclaimed the contested region of South Ossetia, re-instated Russian officials and installed a Moscow backed Mayor.