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South Ossetia’s Secessionist Authorities Close Border Checkpoint for Public Holiday

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, November 22
(TSKHINVALI, South Ossetia) -- Georgia’s breakaway region South Ossetia announced Tuesday that it would unilaterally close its lone border checkpoint with Georgia from November 22 to November 24 as a precautionary security measure during a public holiday.

Georgia’s Reconciliation Minister Ketevan Tsikhelashvili condemned the decision, saying it creates unprovoked problems for the local population on both sides of the border.

"This is a very heartbreaking habit (by the rebels) when they close the only checkpoint…it prevents local residents from moving freely, especially those who live in the (Russian) occupied (South Ossetia) region,” said Tsikhelashvili, before adding that she expected the rebel authorities in South Ossetia’s capital, Tskhinvali to open the checkpoint by the end of the week.

Russian-backed secessionists in South Ossetia have periodically closed the checkpoint since the August 2008 Russia-Georgia War that killed hundreds and left tens of thousands as internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Russia and its close allies, Venezuela and Nicaragua, later recognized the independence of South Ossetia and the much larger and more strategic region Abkhazia on Georgia’s northern Black Sea coast.

The tiny South Pacific island of Nauru also joined the Moscow-led troika in recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which later led to sharp retaliatory diplomatic measures by the US, UK and EU.

Abkhazia, long prized by Georgians and Russians as Georgia’s economic and agricultural crown jewel on the Black Sea, attempted to break away from the central authorities in Tbilisi following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991-1992.

After a series of disastrous moves by the government of Georgia’s then-President, ultra-nationalist Zviad Gamsakhurdia, a vicious 14-month war erupted in the region that resulted in war crimes being committed by both sides. In September 1993, Russian regular military units, volunteer fighters from the North Caucasus and their Abkhaz allies captured the local capital Sukhumi.

In the chaos that followed the fall of Sokhumi, Abkhaz and Russian forces ethnically cleaned the region of its historic population of nearly a quarter of a million Georgians.

There are currently about 280,000 registered IDPs in Georgia; 13.75 percent of the country’s total population of 3.7 million. All of which are from either Abkhazia or South Ossetia.