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The News in Brief

Tuesday, December 26
Russia to Transfer Two Medical Rescue Helicopters to South Ossetia

The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations will grant two medical rescue helicopters to Tskhinvali, local authorities announced on December 22, two days after the meeting of Russia’s Emergency Minister Vladimir Puchkov with Anatoly Bibilov, the region’s Moscow-backed leader.

“There is an urgent need of sanitary aviation so that we are able to quickly transport those requiring emergency medical treatment, who we usually send to the south of our republic (to Georgia proper), to medical facilities in North Caucasus, in North Ossetia,” Alan Tadtaev, head of Tskhinvali’s emergency management agency told the local television station on Friday.

Tadtaev also noted that the helicopters would be based in the region, and that the “all infrastructure for maintaining and servicing the aircraft” would be developed “with the assistance of our Russian colleagues.” Tadtaev added that Moscow would also help the region in training “local specialists so that they are able to maintain and use the aircraft themselves.”

The announcement came slightly over a month after Moscow signed a medical cooperation agreement with Tskhinvali, extending its compulsory medical insurance program to Russian citizens living in South Ossetia.

The new agreement, head of the local “parliament’s” health committee Alan Kozonov contemplated on December 17, would “allow if not to absolutely eradicate, then at least to significantly decrease” the growing number of Tskhinvali residents getting medical treatment in the Tbilisi-controlled part of Georgia.

According to Tamaz Bestaev, healthcare minister at the Tbilisi-based Provisional Administration of South Ossetia, as of December 25, there were around 400 residents of the region who used the Georgian state-funded medical service program in 2017. The corresponding figure for 2016 stood at 679, Bestaev also told Civil Georgia.

Georgian citizen released after illegal 7-year imprisonment in occupied Abkhazia

A Georgian citizen illegally sentenced to 20 years in prison by an unrecognised court in Georgia's Russian-occupied Abkhazia region has been released today.

Giorgi Lukava, who had been illegally held in Dranda Prison in breakaway Abkhazia since May of 2011, was handed over to the Georgian authorities earlier today at the Enguri Bridge, a crossing point between the occupied region and the rest of Georgia.

The State Minister of Georgia for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, assessed the release of the man as "a positive example of cooperation on humanitarian issues between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides”.

"I am more than happy that after almost a seven-year imprisonment, Giorgi Lukava is now free and will meet the New Year at home with his family, wife and children”, the minister said.

"I thank everyone who was involved in the resolution of this case that had a high humanitarian importance. This will be positively reflected in the peace-building process and in the restoration of trust between Georgians and Abkhazians”.

Lukava was detained by the occupation force in the village of Zemo Barghebi in Gali district almost seven years ago. He was convicted of "being a fighter/terrorist" and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Since then, the Georgian side has been raising the issue of his illegal imprisonment at every international format and talks between Georgian and separatist authorities.

Meanwhile last month, on November 26, another Georgian citizen sentenced to 20 years in prison, Giorgi Giunashvili, was released from jail in Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia), another Russian-occupied territory of Georgia.