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Sixteen Georgians detained in South Ossetia

By Temuri Kiguradze
Tuesday, October 27
Sixteen residents of the Georgian village of Gremikhevi in Dusheti district were detained by armed formations from breakaway South Ossetia on October 26.

According to the Georgian Interior Ministry the detained Georgians were in the forest collecting wood when “armed Ossetians kidnapped them” and took them to Akhalgori, which is now under the control of the South Ossetian separatist authorities.

“Georgian law enforcers are conducting an investigation into this incident,” stated spokesperson for the Ministry Shota Utiashvili, speaking to The Messenger on Monday. Utiashvili noted that further information would be available in the near future.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry has said however that the Georgians were detained not by Ossetian formations but units of the Russian Army. “We are now working hard on that case and are going to use all mechanisms to prevent this kind of thing happening in future,” stated Deputy Georgian Foreign Minister Alexander Nalbandov at a press conference in Tbilisi soon after the incident

The South Ossetian de facto regime has confirmed the detention of sixteen ethnic Georgians for “violating the state border of South Ossetia” and “illegally cutting wood.” The South Ossetian de facto leader’s representative for the post-conflict issues, Merab Chigoev, underlined that the Georgian farmers were arrested by the Russian border guards and are being questioned by the staff of the so-called Prosecutor’s Office in Akhalgori.

There have been several cases of the detention of ethnic Georgians near the administrative border with the breakaway region. On August 31 six Georgians were arrested by Ossetian formations and are still being detained. The Georgian side regards these incidents as “kidnappings of Georgian citizens by Ossetian bandits.”

In its turn the de facto authorities of South Ossetia have accused the central Georgian Government of “kidnapping” ethnic Ossetians and putting them in jail. This is among the main topics discussed at the routine meetings between Georgians, South Ossetians and Russians in Ergneti village held as part of the Incident Prevention Mechanism. During the October meeting the Georgian side denied any connection with the disappearance of Ossetian residents.

At the meeting in Ergneti on October 22, the sides discussed the possibility of easing the procedures Georgian citizens must undergo to enter the Akhalgori district. As head of the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) Hansjorg Haber stated, “This is good news for Akhalgori residents, whose freedom of movement should be ensured. However, the IPRM meeting as a whole cannot be considered an easy one. We need to have a more constructive engagement between the participants.” The next meeting is scheduled for November 19, and Monday’s incident is likely to be discussed.