The Georgian-Russian conflict lasted for five days in August, 2008. But along the ceasefire line today both sides remain on a war-footing.
An abundance of checkpoints, defensive positions, and fortifications have sprouted up all along the ceasefire line. In some places, the no-man's land separating Georgian and Russian forces is only about a hundred yards wide.
On the Georgian side at Ergneti, one of Tbilisi's most important listening posts, both the Russian and South Ossetian flags can be seen waving in the distance under gray skies. Sniping from the Russian-Ossetian side remains a danger. Shots could be heard during a recent visit to the ceasefire line, but Georgian soldiers report that the sniping is mostly designed to intimidate civilians and soldiers on the Georgian side, not to kill.
Georgians living near the ceasefire line complained about marauding bands of Ossetians, which, following the ceasefire, continued to carry out nighttime raids, engaging in robbery and even kidnapping. In recent months, however, Georgian special forces have carried out some operations of their own, and the Ossetian raids, locals report, have stopped.
During the conflict, Russian troops and Ossetian militia, along with irregular forces, occupied many small Georgian villages, forcing inhabitants to flee. These villages are now virtual ghost towns that have been incorporated into the ceasefire line.
Ditsy, a Georgian post situated due West of Ergneti, is guarded at all times by three heavily armed soldiers positioned at the entrance to the village. Just down the road is an Ossetian position. Every day Ossetian troops go out on patrol near the Georgian post with a guard dog, a provocative gesture designed to flaunt South Ossetia's status as a Kremlin-recognized, independent entity.
Jonathan Alpeyrie is a war photographer for Getty Images.