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Georgian man killed at ABL

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, May 23
Georgia and the diplomatic corps were alarmed as a Georgian man was shot six times and killed by Russia’s border guards at the so-called Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) separating Abkhazia from the rest of Georgia.

Georgia’s Prime Minister said the murder was “disgusting” and “shocking” and promised the offenders would be very strictly punished.

Georgia’s President said the 31 year-old Giga Otkhozoria was another victim of the ongoing occupation and said he would raise the murder case at the upcoming United Nations’ gathering.

Georgia’s Foreign Ministry (MFA) was “deeply concerned” by the murder and shifted “whole responsibility” on Russia.

Residents of the village of Khurcha, where the man was killed, said Otkhozoria was trying to transport food to Abkhazia for a funeral ceremony of his late aunt.

Locals told media the so-called border guards demanded money in exchange for transporting the baggage which then caused a dispute.

Witnesses stated that Otkhozoria then tried to run away, and the border guards shot him when he was on territory controlled by the Government of Georgia.

A doctor of Zugdidi Hospital, where the wounded man was brought shortly after the shooting, said that Otkhozoria suffered six gunshots, one of them in the face.

“This criminal act once again demonstrates the highly alarming situation in the occupied region of Abkhazia, and full responsibility of the Russian Federation as with the power in effective control of the region.”

“The above-mentioned criminal act reaffirms the need of establishing international security mechanisms in the occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia),” Georgia’s MFA wrote.

The Ministry stressed they have “immediately” informed the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) and co-chairs of the Geneva International Discussions dealing with Georgia’s conflict issues.

In addition, the head of the Georgian Delegation at the Geneva International Discussions, David Dondua, had a phone conversation with the Head of the Russian Delegation Grigori Karasin.

The Ministry emphasised that Georgia would apply all existing international mechanisms to ensure a political and legal response and to bring those responsible for the crime to justice.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Ministry released a statement, saying it had “no hand” in the murder and emphasised that “officials in Tbilisi know well that Russia’s border guards are innocent”.

The Russian body made a counter-accusations, and said Georgia tried to “use” the murder to “once again portray Russia as an occupant”.

The Prosecutor General's Office of Abkhazia stated it had launched a criminal investigation into the death of the Georgian man, reported Tass, a Russian news agency.

The de facto republic's Prosecutor General, Alexei Lomaia, told journalists that investigators must determine what really happened.

The Abkhaz side reported tat two Georgian men tried to cross the so-called border without documents on May 19. After the Abkhazian border guards warned the men, one retreated while the other man, allegedly Otkhozoria, was believed to be under the influence of alcohol and allegedly threatened the guards that he would use physical force against them.

"The border guard fired warning shots at first and when the attacker threatened [violence], the guard was forced to use his weapon," Lomaia said.

The Georgia’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office stated they had video footage reflecting the development and knew who really shot Otkhozoria.

The video already released showed Otkhozoria standing on Georgian-controlled territory while several guards from the de facto region crossed the bridge from the border station and approached the victim. One of the guards shot him several times in the body.

The same guard moved closer and shot the victim in the face as he lay wounded on the ground.

Moments later the border guards hastily ran away from the scene.

The Embassy of United States to Georgia has released a statement responding to the shooting.

“The United States condemns the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in the village of Khurcha, close to the Nabakevi Crossing Point on the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL). We extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to the family of the deceased and urge that a thorough and prompt investigation take place immediately and that those responsible for this tragedy be held accountable,” reads the statement.

The Embassy repeated that the shooting demonstrated the need for urgent resumption of the Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) as well as for international security arrangements on both sides of the ABL.

The US said it fully supported Georgia's sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally-recognized borders.