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Georgian fishermen detained in Abkhazia

By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, November 12
Georgian officials claim that Russian border guards arrested five Georgian fishermen in the Georgian village of Anaklia, close to the administrative border of breakaway Abkhazia, on November 10. They describe this as “kidnapping” and state that Russian soldiers detained the Georgians on accusations of “illegal fishing.” Tbilisi notes that this detention is part of a “chain of kidnappings” of Georgians by Russian troops and underlines that the issue will be raised at the international talks in Geneva on Wednesday.

“Russia continues to conduct its chain of extremely dangerous and sordid provocations, which have recently acquired the form of manhunts. The Kremlin employs such methods in order to escalate the situation on the territories adjacent to Georgia's occupied regions greatly and provide all the preconditions for inflaming the present conflict.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia expresses its strong protest over the actions of the Russian occupation troops and demands the immediate return of its kidnapped citizens. The Ministry calls on the international community to make an adequate assessment of this incident and take respective measures in order to counter Russia's culpable actions that constitute part of the Kremlin's aggressive plans,” wrote the Georgian Foreign Ministry’s Press Service on November 11.

The detention of the fishermen was denied by both the separatist authorities and the Russian border guards. “This is false information. Russian coast guard vessels which protect the Abkhazian sea borders did not enter the region they are being reported to have done by the Georgian media,” stated the head of the Russian border guards in Abkhazia Vasily Malaev, as quoted by the Russian RIA-Novosti agency on the same day.

The EU monitoring mission (EUMM) in Georgia noted that it is aware of the information spread by the Georgian side. “According to our information this incident really did take place. Three of the five detained fishermen are residents of the Gali district of Abkhazia and have already been released. The other two are still detained and we don’t know their location, however we have been informed that the Abkhazian side may release them either today or tomorrow,” stated Virginia Antonini, Spokesperson for the EUMM speaking to The Messenger on the day of the fishermen’s detention. She also confirmed that this incident will be discussed at the talks in Geneva.

According to agreements Moscow has signed with the separatist authorities of the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia Russian border guards are securing the administrative borders of those territories. In recent times the number of detained Georgians has greatly increased. 21 Georgian farmers were arrested close to the South Ossetian administrative border at the end of October and later freed. These incidents were followed by the detention of four Georgian teenagers, who are still being held in the de facto South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali.

The teenagers’ detention had achieved loud resonance in the Georgia media. Georgian state officials and non-governmental organisations have appealed to the Russian and South Ossetian separatist sides for their immediate release. President Saakashvili has even criticised international organisations for “not putting enough” effort into putting pressure on the “kidnappers.” “I want to raise this issue, these provocations, which they [Russia] are staging every day and by so doing testing their [Western leaders’] reaction. In general we want louder reactions [from the West],” stated Saakashvili on November 9, referring to the EU’s statement concerning the detained teenagers.

“While the EUMM declares its readiness to assist in any appropriate way, the Mission also vigorously appeals to the de facto authorities in South Ossetian to find common ground with the relevant Georgian structures in order to bring the present situation to a satisfactory resolution in a prompt manner,” the EUMM had said in a statement on November 8.