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Georgian Gov’t Says No Gas Vouchers for Occupation-line Villages This Winter

By Tea Mariamidze
Thursday, December 14
(TBILISI) --The Georgian government will not provide residents of occupation-line villages with 200 GEL ($77.67) gas vouchers this winter.

The decision is a break with the previous year when the government spent 2.378 million GEL ($905.628) to give the 200 GEL vouchers to 11,894 families living on the de facto border with Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The residents of villages near South Ossetia claim that heating with gas is expensive and they have to get wood from the forest, which is on the Russian-controlled territory.

Mamuka Samkharadze, a village resident told Rustavi 2 he has already been caught by Russian called border guards on five separate occasion and and taken to the rebel capital Tskhinvali to pay a fine.

“I have to go to the forest again, because we need wood to get warm. If the state decided to help us, I would stay at home,” Samkharadze stated.

Another resident of the frontline village Kirbali, Natalia Geladze, says she uses gas only to cook dinner because she cannot afford to pay the high utility bills.

“Last year the government gave us 200 GEL gas vouchers for the winter...even then we used gas very rarely because it was enough for only one month of heating,” she added.

The natives complain the living conditions in the occupation-line villages remains dire, adding they are kidnapped and jailed on a daily basis by Russian troops.

Illegally-detained residents are usually released after paying a 3,850 Russian ruble ($65) fine for violating the the border.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which amount to 20% of Georgia’s legal territory, fell under Russian-occupation in the wake of the August 2008 Russian-Georgian War, which left 192,000 Georgians internally displaced.