(ERGNETI, Georgia)--The Russia-controlled leadership of Georgia’s occupied Tskhinvali region has returned the body of Georgian soldier, 35-year-old Archil Tatunashvili, to his family 26 days after his death, late on Tuesday.
Occupants Return Tatunashvili’s Tortured Body 26 Days after his Death
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, March 22
The body of Tatunashvili, who died in unclear circumstances in Tskhinvali on February 23, has been taken out of the occupied territory by the International Committee of the Red Cross and was rushed to Tbilisi for autopsy.
After several hours in the capital, the body was transported to Tsilkani, to the village where the Tatunashvili family lives.
People in the village greeted the body as one of a hero, with males on their knees.
Those who saw the body, as well as the local administration, confirms Tatunashvili was tortured, as his body was “full of bruises, his hands broken and an index figure cut.”
“Tatunashvili is a hero. He was tortured in the way occupants torture Georgian soldiers. Russians and the de facto regions’ people cut index fingers of the Georgian soldiers, as they use their fingers to shoot,” Lasha Berulava, one of the witnesses of the body has written on his Facebook page.
According to the results of the Russian autopsy that de-facto Tskhinvali officials gave to the International Committee of the Red Cross, while transferring the body, Tatunashvili died from acute heart failure caused by myocardial ischemia on February 23.
Moreover, the autopsy claimed he suffered from cirrhosis of liver and chronic hepatitis.
The results of the Georgian investigation will be available in around two weeks. The Government of Georgia has not yet made any comments on the results of the Russian autopsy.
Sozar Subari, Georgian Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees stated those 26 days were difficult for everyone.
“It is always hard when a person is illegally detained and practically kidnapped, then allegedly tortured and killed”, Subari told Imedi TV. .
Subari said it is even worse when the body is not returned to the family because of political reasons.
He believes the de-facto Tskhinvali authorities could have carried out an autopsy immediately after Tatunashvili’s death so that the body could have been returned to Tbilisi-administered territory much earlier.
Majority leader Archil Talakvadze stated that Russia, which fully controls Georgia’s occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, is “responsible for Tatunashvili’s death.”
Tatunashvili will be buried on Saturday. As the Ministry of Defence reports, they will arrange military funeral honors for him. The Ministry says that a guard of honor is already in the village of Tsilkani.
The Ministry of Defense will cover the funeral costs.
Tatunashvili and two other Georgian citizens were detained in the occupied Akhalgori area by Russia-controlled border guards on February 22, allegedly for participation in the Russia-Georgia 2008 war.
However, Tatunashvili was in Iraq that time, defending international peace.
Tskhinvali media announced the death of Tatunashvili on February 23, and stated that the latter had an incident with detention facility staff and fell down a flight of stairs.
However, the de facto security service of Tskhinvali claimed the man died from heart failure.
Tskhinvali refused to hand over the body to his family and said that they needed time to conduct a "comprehensive autopsy."
Levan Kutashvili and Ioseb Pavliashvili, who were detained with Tatunashvili, were only able to leave the occupied region on March 11 because their documents had been confiscated.
The United States, NATO, the European Union, a number of other countries and almost all international organisations had urged Russia and the de-facto leadership to hand over Tatunashvili’s body to his family and allow Kutashvili and Papunashvili to return freely across the occupation line.
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili urged the leadership of the Russian Federation to take joint steps and resolve this "complicated situation”.
Expressing their “sadness” over Tatunashvili’s death, Russia claimed the case was “beyond their competence.”
On March 19, Parliamentary majority and minority agreed on joint resolution over Archil Tatunashvili’s death.