January 2020

Borderization and territorial claims South Ossetia

Borderization refers to the construction of physical barriers to transform a territorial ceasefire line into an international border.”

While there are various ways to implement this so called “borderization”, this page focuses on the construction of physical barriers such as fences, barbed wire and border signs outside of the crossing points. Other aspects of borderization are upholding a border regime (arrest and detention of so called “tresspassers”) and formalizing and limiting the passage through the “border checkpoints”. All these aspects have an impact on humanitarian circumstances such as freedom of movement.

Note: anything on the Chorchana – Tsnelisi territorial conflict and borderization at that location can be found in its own page.

Direct links to  2018, 2019 or 2020. An introduction in the subject of borderization can be found by opening below green bar.

Overview of borderization
South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast

The current administrative boundary line (ABL) and de-facto "border" of South Ossetia finds its origins in the creation of the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast (province) within the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922. The autonomy was a reward for Ossetian Bolshevik loyalty against the Georgian Mensheviks in the Soviet conquest of the independent Democratic Republic of Georgia in 1921. When the administrative boundary was drawn in the early 1920's the area included many (ethnic) Georgian villages and lands within the region, despite protests at the time. In December 1990 the Georgian SSR abolished the regional autonomy. The following civil war of 1991-92 and Russian-Georgian war of 2008 rid the region of most Georgians. But pockets still remain, mostly in Akhalgori district and along the fringes of the ABL.


After the devastating 2008 war Russia started to "borderize" the region. It recognized the self-declared independence of the region, and thus assisted with creating a "state border". First it set up a string of FSB "border guard" compounds close to the ABL, and from 2011 physical barriers were gradually installed. This included the construction of fences and barbed wires cutting through farmland, villages and yards of residents, separating communities from each other. Apart from the creation of a "state border", every move in this direction touches a nerve in Georgian society. Which is easily exploited as a push factor. But also not in the least by the Georgian government as well to by raising awareness to the international community.

Most recently, in the summer of 2019, this led to a major crisis around the village of Gugutiantkari. In intimidating moves, the green border signs and fences frequently inch farther into the Tbilisi controlled and administered land, sometimes just 100 meter, sometimes a kilometer. This expansion, and territorial annexation was seen most recently during the Chorchana - Tsnelisi crisis in the summer of 2019, which continues unresolved well into 2020. This spat, just like other incidents, is essentially a dispute the exact line of the ABL, while both sides use different (often Soviet) maps as reference. The South Ossetian and Russian side use the incidents to force Georgia into negotiations on formalizing the boundary (or "state border"). 


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Below in descending chronological order developments of the borderization of the Administrative Boundary Line of South Ossetia.



On New Years Night the Georgian Strength in Unity protest movement held a New Years celebration near the Administrative Boundary Line and in visual distance from the Russian Akhmaji base.  With a drone they recorded the Russian base at night (see video below).

This led to an irritated South Ossetian response on 19 January 2021, de facto accusing the group of spying.

“… on December 31, 2020, on the border area near the village of Odzisi, Khashuri municipality, the Georgian special services, through the controlled NGOs, instigated the so-called protest rally, numbering about 20 people. During the action, a quadcopter was used, which violated the State border and deepened up to 600 meters into the territory of the RSO. The duration and trajectory of the flight of this UAV indicate its use in the interests of aerial reconnaissance of border infrastructure facilities in the vicinity of the settlement of Akhmadz, Leningor district”

The South Ossetian de facto authorities announced on 25 December 2020 “the border service of the state security committee will strengthen the protection of the state border with Georgia”.

On 12 December 2020 at the 51st round of the GID Geneva International Discussions, the South Ossetian side raised the matter of the Truso Gorge, to which it makes territorial claims: “Once again, the most serious attention was drawn to Georgia’s gross violations of the rights of the Tyrsygom Ossetians,who for several years are not able to gain access to their ancestral villages.”


A Russian language teacher from South Ossetia’s Akhalgori district suffering serious health issues, died after she was repeatedly denied entry to Tbilisi-controlled territory for treatment, IPN reported on 15 October. The Akhalgori crossing point has been closed by Tskhinvali authorities since the end of February 2020, officially due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has taken a toll on the Akhalgori population which is reliant on access to Tbilisi controlled territory. Radio Tavisupleba reported more on the backgrounds.


The Georgian State Security Service reported on 1 September Russian controlled forces have resumed ‘borderisation’ activities along Karapila in Kaspi municipality.

Video: Borderization works at Karapila
Borderization works by Russian controlled forces near Karapila village and just 300 metres away from the main East-West E60/S1 highway. At this location a stroke of land has been ploughed to mark the so called "border". This is one of the other ways "borderization" looks. It does not stop people physically perse, but it does mentally: locals who want to access their fam land beyond this line risk being arrested by the Russian controlled forces.


Georgia’s State Security Service reported on 12 September Russian controlled forces have resumed ‘borderisation‘ activities near Khurvaleti village, where they placed new poles. The Georgian State Ministry for Reconciliation decried the Russian activities in the midst of the global covid-19 pandemic.

The next day it was reportedborderisation‘ activities continued near Nikozi village.  In a video (below in fold-out) published by the Georgian Public Broadcaster the troops can be seen installing a 2nd parallel fence 10  metres behind the green fence that was installed a few years ago. IPN lays out a few possible reasons for this. The Georgian press and activists attention was noted by the South Ossetian side.

Radio Tavisupleba reported borderisation works at Atotsi (on top of the aforementioned Nikozi and Khurvaleti): “In the village of Atotsi the existing fence was continued in the direction of the neighboring village of Kodi. In addition, Atocels see from their own plots how the occupying forces are building watchtowers”.

Video: Borderization works at Zemo Nikozi
Closeup recording of installing a double fence.

The State Security Committee of South Ossetia communicated a total of 7 km  “state border has been equipped” over the past period. It even went as far to praise Georgian activisists: “Thanks to the reasonable initiative and actions in line with the interests of South Ossetia, the leader of the “Strength in Unity” movement D. Katsarava, the border population of Georgia is timely and fully informed about these events and the line of crossing the State Border on the ground”.

It also claimed the Georgian side “in the vicinity of the settlement Upper Nikozi, the work is underway to build fences, caponiers, and fortifications for possible use of military purposes”.

The Committee also made uncorroborated claims some 20 Georgian servicemen “resumed the construction of a police checkpoint near Sinagur, working on the construction and strengthening of defensive structures, including from recycled car tires, as well as equipping firing positions for armored vehicles”.


On 6 August the erection of barriers reportedly resumed by Russian controlled forces between Tbilisi controlled Takhtisdziri and Tskhinvali controlled Gvirgvina villages.  The erection of barriers near Takhtisdziri village began in April 2020, seizing 10 hectares of land in the process.


On 1 July 2020 Georgian civil activists monitoring the boundary area have determined so called “border” signs were placed on the east bank of the Ghebura River between Perevi and Sinaguri as early as 2014 without public knowledge. They talked to local residents and asked them “is there a place in or around Perevi where you used to enter before, after the 2008 war which you can’t enter from some point?

They pointed to the land across the Ghebura river, to which they have no access anymore since 2014.  The new de facto boundary (or occupation) line has moved until 970 meters deep in Tbilisi controlled controlled area until the Ghebura river, a total surface of 2.43 square km. According to the activists the Georgian authorities never communicated about this.

In this area the Administrative Boundary Line runs away from the river. As can be seen by many reference sources, also the last Soviet era staff maps (of 1989), this area is outside of the ABL. There is nothing here, such as villages, that would justify South Ossetia’s claim to this area. In fact, in this area a Georgian community lives on both sides of the ABL, which is why there are two (currently closed) crossing points. The situation is reminiscent of the Tsnelisi conflict.

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The South Ossetian de facto authorities stated on 6 July they will “strengthen control over the state of the state border regime”. Together with Russia, “joint activities aimed at preventing crime related to the border area” will be conducted. In other words: more repression and detentions can be expected. An appeal to residents of boundary settlements urging them “to immediately inform law enforcement agencies about the violators of the so-called state border and do not come into contact with them”.

In a rather ironic statement, the South Ossetian de facto authorities complimented on 8 July Georgian “Strength in Unity” civil activists with their work, meanwhile suggesting the activists inform the South Ossetian de facto authorities:

“[…] the Tbilisi regime has hindered the activities of independent NGOs in obtaining objective information about the processes taking place on the state border of South Ossetia and Georgia. Earlier, through the capabilities of patriotic representatives of Georgian NGOs, the State Security Committee of South Ossetia regularly received objective information about the situation in the border region. [The Committee] positively assesses the informational work of Georgian NGOs and the activity of their leaders “in the direction of objective coverage of the actions of the special bodies of the Tbilisi regime and their Western owners.”

Of course, the leader of the activists Davit Katsarava was asked for a reaction. He rebutted the statement of the de facto South Ossetian regime as a way to discredit their work.

“In this statement, they seem to be praising us, and all this is being done purposefully, because I and my team are being discredited, and the occupation regime is actively trying to do that. [….] For exactly three years, we have been covering what is happening along the occupation line and trying to make the public aware of what the government is hiding. Unfortunately, it turned out that the government is directly cooperating with Russia and in fact we are lustrating all this. This creates serious discomfort for both Russia and the occupation regime, as well as for the Georgian government. By its inaction, the government is helping Russia to seize land, and we are talking about that openly. Earlier the same regime criticized us, called for destructive force, and demanded our neutralization, and now it seems that the tactics have changed.”

On 25th July the “Strength in Unity” activist group ran into an argument with Georgian police when they were establishing coordinates of “border” signs recently put up by Russian controlled forces, near Takhtisdziri.  Reportedly Russian forces were nearby ready to arrest and detain the group. The police accused the group of provocation staying in the occupied territories, which activist leader Katsarava categorically denied. He assessed the accusations of the Georgian law enforcers as cooperation with the occupation forces. Borderization in this area resumed in mid-April. Since then local farmers cannot access their arable land.

According to the activists the de facto border (or “occupation line”) has been moved 75 meters into Tbilisi controlled territory (see pictures below). It has to be noted that the ABL on Google Maps is not a formally legit nor 100% accurate reference. Nevertheless, local farmers have undeniably been cut of from accessing their land.

A few days later the South Ossetian authorities chimed in, distorting the situation as if a “Georgian intelligence group” in the “uniform of Georgian police” tried to penetrate South Ossetian territory. It also goes on saying – as more often recently – the EUMM is conspiring with the Georgian police in such “provocative and destructive activities”. 



South Ossetian de facto authorities accused Georgian authorities on 4 June 2020 of “violation of airspace of the Republic by Georgian drones” along the ABL between the villages Tsnelisi/Uista and Okona. The linked press statement contains yet another propaganda and disinformation offensive with all the main talking points of the last period. The de facto authorities accused the Georgians of spreading diseases via UAV’s, directly connecting this with the Lugar biolab and the US once again:

“Considering the available information on the development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the United States capable of spreading infected insects, as well as the Lugar’s laboratory conducting a whole range of studies related to infected mosquitoes, the resurgent cases of the appearance of Georgian drones over the territory of South Ossetia are of particular concern.  In mid-May, residents of the village of Khando of the Akhalkalaki municipality had found a large number of dead birds near the village, unloaded from trucks by unknown people in protective uniforms and masks. 

“This fact caused concern among the local population, because earlier – in April, 2020 an outbreak of Congo-Crimean hemorrhagic fever was recorded in the municipality, which led to a mor of ​​poultry and livestock. The first case of the mentioned epidemiological disease in Georgia was recorded in 2014 (34 people fell ill, 3 died). The spread of the infection coincided in time with the beginning of the “study of the causative agent of this disease” in the center of Lugar in Tbilisi.” 

“In addition, the KGB draws attention to the counterproductive actions of the Georgian side to establish a new modular design in the territory of the post of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia in the village of Odzisi, the Khashur municipality, in which it is planned to place a medical unit equipped with special equipment designed to collect biological material from citizens of South Ossetians of the Georgian nationality, followed by its sending to the Lugar laboratory. This decision was made after May 1, 2020 when the US Ambassador to Georgia K. Degnan and Deputy head of the State Security Service of Georgia, curator of the South Ossetian direction of the Service, A. Khodzhevanishvili, visited this settlement.”

On 7 June 2020 Formula News reported about new watchtower works near Atotsi by South Ossetian forces, while Georgian activists monitoring this were according to them obstructed by Georgian authorities in releasing this information.

According to activists on 20 June, locals told new barbed wires were installed near Sakorintlo village. This has not been confirmed by other sources: according to the activists themselves, police still does not allow journalists or civil activists to enter the area to either confirm the veracity of this information or to deny it.

Sakorintlo borderization 20-06-2020
Sakorintlo borderization 20-06-2020 (Source)

On 23 June 2020 the South Ossetian de facto authorities said “the Georgian side is completing the equipment of the post of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, set up opposite the village of Sinagur[i]”. Also they claimed “hundreds of disposed tires buried in the ground to erect the perimeter […which is] nothing more than an act of environmental terrorism“. Images don’t provide detail the tires are actually buried under the ground. They are just used on the premises above the ground.  The South Ossetian de facto authorities even went as far to say Georgia is in violation of the Basel Convention:

“Georgia, being an associate of the EU, using automobile tires in this way, ignores the Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (1989), as well as the European Waste Catalog (2002), in which substances contained in the deadlines operating automobile pneumatic tires are classified as dangerous”.

Below can be seen the tires have not been buried under the walled  perimeter as claimed, but used as an inner ring above the ground. The South Ossetian de facto authorities  ironically disprove their own misinformation.


On 22 May 2020 the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported the launch of borderization works in Mereti (Gori Municipality), which is under control of the central government of Georgia. The works were confirmed by South Ossetian de facto authorities (later accusing Georgian police officers violating the boundary for 10 meters on 21 and 22 May in the same section Ksuisi-Khelchua).  Here is the full statement of the Georgian MFA on these and other incidents in the recent period.  The statement also reads borderization works were conducted on other locations in the previous week:

“While the whole world is struggling with the dire consequences of the global pandemic of Coronavirus (Covid-19), the Russian occupation forces are activating the so-called barbed wire fences. Banners marking the “border” and the so-called Firefighting [trenches] in both occupied territories – Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions. Only in the last week has the so-called the process of “borderization” took place in parallel in the villages of Kareli Municipality – Tseronisi and Knolev, Takhtisdziri and Dvani, Koda and Chvrinisi, Atotsi; In the villages of Tsalenjikha Municipality – Pakhulani and Muzhava, as well as in the surrounding areas of the villages of Zugdidi Municipality – Khurchi and Ganmukhuri.

At the same time, the Russian Federation has deliberately intensified its hybrid warfare tools against Georgia and is constantly attacking one of the laboratories of the Georgian National Center for Disease Control and Public Health – Richard Lugar, which plays a key role in spreading the fight against coronavirus in Georgia.” [see more about this at the May 2020 section of the Tsnelesi / Chorchana page]

Map: Overview borderization locations May 2020
According to the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Russian controlled forces performed in May 2020 borderization works near the Administrative Boundary Line of Abkhazia and South Ossetia simultaneously on at least 12 locations.

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New trenches were observed on 26 May at the ABL near Atotsi by the Power in Unity activist group. At a watchtower that was constructed here some years ago by Russian controlled forces , a shop mannequin was observed in military outfit to scare locals. Radio Tavisupleba offered an extensive report, also highlighting the rather reluctant (slow) response attitude of the government towards the simultaneous works in May. Aerial footage of August 2019 of the site illustrates the changes compared with the below pictures.

On 28 May 2020 the US Ambassador to the OSCE stated in an official reply to his Russian counterpart: “There is no territory of South Ossetia. It is an occupied part of Georgia’. In this statement he also highlighted the continuing Russian coronavirus disinformation campaign targeted against Georgia and the Lugar Biolab:

“The United States condemns Russia’s disinformation campaign about Georgia’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, which is a transparent attempt to exploit the public health situation in Georgia and the region for its own ends. Moscow is once again spreading lies about a highly-regarded research institute in Georgia, the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health at the Richard C. Lugar Center for Public Health, this time during an ongoing and serious pandemic, they do these things.

Let me just take a moment to expose the Russian government’s attempt to use the pandemic as an opportunity to amplify its malign influence, here by spreading fables about a highly-regarded research institute in the Republic of Georgia. Here’s the truth: The Lugar Center was established to identify and address disease outbreaks just like COVID-19.”

On 29 May 2020 New Leaders Initiative NGO protested at Sakorintlo at the occupation line against the renewed occupation efforts by Russia during the pandemic and the Georgian government’s silence on the issue. They also delivered food packages to a family living near the ABL in difficult circumstances.

Meanwhile, South Ossetian de facto authorities accused the Georgian authorities of provocative actions, flying an MI-8 helicopter near Tsnelisi and Leningor district at an approximate distance of 4km of the ABL. The EUMM is accused of condoning such  “provocative activities” and not notifying Tskhinvali.

April and other Georgian media reported on 17 April based on information of the  State Security Service of Georgia “Russian occupying forces have continued “illegal borderization” near the village of Takhtisdziri of Kareli Municipality along the dividing line between Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia and Georgia proper”.

Borderization at Takhtisdziri April 2020
Borderization at Takhtisdziri April 2020 (source: 1TV)

Georgian State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili said that “amid global fight against the coronavirus pandemic, illegal borderization carried out by the occupying regime clearly demonstrates the latter’s real face”.  Meanwhile, the South Ossetian side accuses Tbilisi of creating a  “scandal” for internationale “attention”.

Both European and American diplomacy in Georgia reacted, with the ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic in mind:

“The United States is deeply troubled by reports that Russian-led security actors have resumed aggressive “borderization” activities along the administrative boundary line of the Russian-occupied Georgian territory of South Ossetia, near the village of Takhtisdziri. We condemn any actions by the de facto authorities in Tskhinvali that aggravate tensions and distract from urgent efforts to safeguard the lives and health of the affected populations, particularly during the Orthodox Easter weekend and against the backdrop of the global pandemic crisis. [….]”

Carl Hartzell, Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia:  “Further “borderisation” from Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia is completely unacceptable. I call on South Ossetian and Russian security actors to immediately stop these activities and to refrain from any further steps that could escalate the situation.”

Co-chairs of the Geneva International Discussions (GID): “The focus should be on collaboration, for the good of all people in the region and against the common threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. The reported erection of signs along the South Ossetian dividing line today predictably contributes to a tense atmosphere on the ground and rids the local people of their livelihoods. In the face of the current global challenge of COVID-19, requiring joint approaches and co-operation amongst all, we hereby repeat our call on all participants to avoid provocative measures and focus on improving the situation of the conflict-affected population.”

EurActiv put the spotlight on Russian aggression in the occupied territories towards Georgia, inflaming tensions while the world is fully occupied with fighting the Covid-19 virus pandemic. Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius is cited “For Russia, coronavirus is serving as a smokescreen for further ‘borderisation’”.

Dennis Sammut, the director of LINKS Europe, a foundation based in The Hague promoting the peaceful resolution of conflicts in Europe’s neighbourhood, indicated that the population of Georgia’s occupied territories was very sensitive to news from Tbilisi. Abkhazians and Ossetians “follow news and TV coverage, and social media. So how the Georgian government, and the Georgian people, behave during the pandemic matters also in the context of the unresolved conflicts”, Sammut told EURACTIV.

That susceptibility might explain the provocative nature of the South Ossetian de facto leadership during the pandemic. It propagates repeatedly “Georgian special services [try to] export the problem to South Ossetia”, fuelling an image of a vicious enemy. Georgia is internationally lauded as a successtory in the fight against the local outbreak, while the South Ossetian de facto leadership maintains the position things are out of control in the country. While in fact, things are out of control in Russia, also concerning the North Ossetia autonomous republic where more than 2000 infections have been counted. All of South Ossetia’s current (34) cases got infected in Russia, carrying it to South Ossetia.

The Tskhinvali authorities also try to install fear towards Georgia among its population to disarm its susceptibility to Georgian news, for its own agenda of separation. Also, it keeps repeating the Georgians are scheming together with the USA in the Lugar laboratory to weaponize the COVID-19 pandemic against South Ossetia.


After a relative quiet period since summer 2019, borderization works at Gugutiantkari that were left unfinished, were resumed in January  2020. See this dedicated page for more detailed information.



Georgian media reported on 19 October 2019  borderization works were resumed near Atotsi village.  According an EUMM statement on 30 October it “did carry out a regular, scheduled patrol near the village of Atotsi in the early hours of 30 October” noting new fences were installed. It also stipulated the general security posture from the Russian controlled side remained relatively stable:

“The EUMM is closely monitoring and reporting on incremental ‘borderisation’ activities in the vicinity of Atotsi. During the past days the Mission has observed new fencing being installed, creating additional barriers to the freedom of movement for the conflict affected population. The EUMM has not observed any notable difference in posture or patrolling patterns of security actors from South Ossetia on the ground compared to the recent past.”

EUMM patrol Atotsi October 2019
EUMM patrol Atotsi October 2019 (source: EUMM)
7 – 21 August

On the 7th of August South Ossetian and Russian security forces resumed borderization works in the village of Gugutiantkari located at the ABL with South Ossetia.

A separate page is dedicated to this location which developments had a prolonged course during August with renewed activity in January 2020.

18 July

At the 94th EUMM brokered IPRM meeting the South Ossetian side said they “will continue the erection of barbed-wire-fences. We will continue the process as it is important for making the state border”.

94th IPRM meeting Ergenti 18 July 2019 (photo: EUMM)
94th IPRM meeting Ergenti 18 July 2019 (photo: EUMM)

With hindsight this seemed to have been a warning of what was to come in the second half of 2019, starting in August: the Gugutiantkari and Tsnelisi disputes.

21 January – 8 February

From 21 January renewed borderization works by South Ossetian and Russian (“occupying”) forces took place in the area of the villages of Khurvaleti and Dzukata (Dzukaantkari). It is a well known location where Georgian communities have been separated for quite a few years.

The militias installed new barbed wires and a watchtower next to the orchard of local residents, splitting various private yards, as video’s showed. This was needed “to better control the border”, South Ossetian representatives said at the IPRM meeting in Ergneti in February.

Georgian Reconciliation Minister Ketevan Tsikhelashvili cited Russian media outlet Sputnik which reported more than 40 individuals have been detained this year for “illegally crossing the border”. She snapped: “It is natural that more than 90 per cent of the individuals were trying to cross the so-called border from Tskhinvali to the rest of Georgia”.



18 December

At the first IPRM meeting in 3 months, the representative of South Ossetia Yegor Kochiev remarked that borderization of the administrative boundary line will continue:

“As at the previous meetings, the Georgian party referred to the fact that this was a political issue. We have tried to point out that this issue is of purely practical importance to facilitate the life of people who will know where the territory of South Ossetia and the territory of Georgia is. And there will not be all the related sanctions for the detention of violators, fines, court proceedings”

The statement of the EUMM released after the meeting read that borderization is a violation of the right to freedom of movement for local residents:

“Participants discussed recent developments at the Administrative Boundary Line, including recent events in the Atotsi area. On the latter, the co-facilitators noted the efforts of security actors to maintain stability along the Administrative Boundary Line, while expressing concern over the impact of recent borderisation on the local population’s freedom of movement.”

The monthly IPRM meetings were suspended since September after Interpol issued a red notice upon Georgia’s request for two individuals in connection with the death of Archil Tanunashvili in February 2019.

14 November

Russian border forces begun installing reinforced barbed wire fence through the village Dzukaantkari (Dzukata), as part of a gradual demarcation around the breakaway region South Ossetia.

The new ‘more solid’ type of fences are replacing the old fences that were installed in 2009 and run right through the center of the village. Residents say the installation of new fences is a deliberate policy by breakaway authorities in Tskhinvali aimed at minimizing communication across the conflict line.

1 November

Russian controlled militias resumed the installation of a 1000 m fence between Balta and Atotsi near the ABL since 1 November 2018. This was reported on 6 and 7 November by Georgian and South Ossetian “state media” respectively.  at the same moment the de facto parliament of the South Ossetia region increased the penalyy for ‘illegally crossing the border’ with Georgia to $300 as they deemed current amount of $30 to be ineffective.

State Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality of Georgia, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili responded to the development by saying:

“The majority of people living in the occupied territories and who are hindered by the barbed wire fences built by the occupation regime are ethnic Ossetians that are not allowed to move about freely. This is another revelation as to how insignificant humans and their rights are to the occupation forces – how they do not care about their ethnicity be it Georgian, Abkhaz or Ossetian. The regime has one interest – military – and they believe it is in their strategic interest to increase tensions in the pre-election period [2nd round of Presidential elections Georgia] to put more pressure on the population. Russia is not going to achieve any results with these provocations and we have reacted properly to this case”. While visiting the site the minister said, “Russia is isolating the Tskhinvali region from the outside world and is creating “unbearable” conditions for ethnic Ossetians”.

The EUMM mission confirmed the borderization works:

“Significant borderization activities have been taking place in the area of the Georgian villages of Atotsi (Balta) since early November 2018. A total of nearly 400 meters of new fencing work, running alongside the administrative boundary line with South Ossetia, have been observed by EUMM patrols in the area. The EUMM is closely monitoring and reporting on such borderization activities that affect stability as well as the rights of people in the area.”


Power In Unity protest near Atotsi
Power In Unity protest near Atotsi

On 10 and 18 November the activist group “Power in Unity” led by David Katsarava protested at the site. Up to 500 people are said to have joined the rally.  On 8 December dozens of people gathered for a musical protest action initiated by Georgian pianist Keti Ward-Asatashvili in the Georgian border village of Atotsi, performing the national anthem. Activists opposed the installation of pillars with barbed wire by the South Ossetian side. According to activists, residents of the Georgian village lost their agrarian lands as a result of installation of fences 

28 October

In a brave deed of disobedience to the “occupiers” 87-year-old Data Vanishvili, whose yard in Khurvaleti is divided in two by Russian-erected barbed wire fences, crossed the boundary line early in the morning to cast his vote in the presidential elections.

Vanishvili said he was warned by the Russia-controlled troops not to “cross the border”, but he did so anyway and voted at the Khurvaleti polling station.

“It is my country and I wanted to vote. I cut my hand when I was trying to get across the fence. When i did so and had walked a certain distance, I found that I did not have my passport with me and I had to return back to the fence, where my wife handed me my passport. I voted to see the barbed-wire fences removed so that I can cultivate my garden and stop living alone, without free contact with my neighbors.”

During the second round runoff on 28 November he was prevented to vote by the troops from Russian controlled South Ossetia:

“Two so-called border guards came to me this morning and warned me not to cross the line. They threatened me that if I did go vote, they would detain me and make me pay fine. They are nearby to prevent from going to vote.”

8 May

Digging of anti-fire ditches was reported near the administrative boundary line. RFE/RL reported the occupants dug ditches not only in Tskhinvali-controlled territory, but also in Tbilisi-administered area. The government of Georgia strongly condemned this fact and appealed to the international community to react to the illegality of it. The EUMM confirmed the renewed activity.

Tskhinvali said it makes ditches “to protect itself” from the fires which may spread from the Tbilisi-controlled territory. The practice is in fact another means of “borderization”, making the administrative boundary visible in the land: local residents get discouraged to pass the boundary to reach their farmland.

27 April

Georgian Akhalgori municipality governor Nugzar Tinikashvili said de facto leadership of South Ossetia announced restrictions for ethnic Georgian farmers. When they will take their cattle and sheep from Tskhinvali controlled Akhalgori to other Georgian (Tbilisi controlled) regions in winter, they will not be able to re-enter South Ossetia region with their cattle and sheep. About 25 Georgian families in Akhalgori will be affected by this, not being able to provide enough food for their cattle in winter.

“The reason Bibilov named was that some illnesses and infections were spread in Georgian regions affecting the cattle which could also be brought to Tskhinvali via the sheep and the cattle of the Georgian farmers. The reason is absolutely groundless as no such infection is reported. Moreover, both the central and local governments of Georgia pay close attention to timely vaccination of cattle to avoid any illness,” according to Tinikashvili.

03 April

Murat Dzhioev, the Plenipotentiary of the President of South Ossetia for Post-conflict Settlement, accused the European Union Monitoring Mission of “violation of the state border” on three occasions in February. The diplomat said mission representatives referred to the discrepancy with South Ossetian maps along the border line.

“On February 6, 8 and 20 in the same place – in the vicinity of the village of Nizhniy Tsiglat [Kvemo Okona] in the Znaurs region of South Ossetia, observers from the European Union three times went deep into our republic to 100 meters. We, in turn, noted that since the EU mission has a mandate to work only on the territory of Georgia, let observers who have doubts about the border line simply do not come close to it, but observe from a certain distance how usually, ”said Dzhioev. 

The EUMM has a mandate over the entire recognized Georgian territory, including the breakaway regions.

Dzhioev also complained at the GID discussions about alleged “discrimination” against Ossetians who cannot visit their “native lands” near Kazbeg (enter cultural territorial claims, a.k.a “East Ossetia):

“Georgia declares a visa-free regime for Russian citizens to Georgia, and at the same time does not allow persons of Ossetian nationality who come from the Trusov Gorge or have historical roots in the Kazbek region, to the territory of the Kazbek region. That is, we are again dealing with double standards. These citizens cannot visit historical sites, monuments in the Kazbek region, and even lose the property they had there.”

27 February

Head of the Border Service of the KGB of South Ossetia, Valery Zozulya, stated construction of barriers at the ABL with Georgia will continue in 2018. In 2017, South Ossetian “border guards” installed over 1200 meters of borderization structures in the ABL zone and 63 signs were installed at the entrance to the sp called “border zone” in all four regions of the South Ossetia region.

24 January

At the IPRM Ergneti meeting, the South Ossetian delegation said another “border sign” was shot at from the Georgian side. This time between the villages of Plavi and Zemo Otrevi:

“We drew the attention of the participants of the meeting to another shooting of the South Ossetian border mark in the area of ​​the villages of the Lower Otrev and Korcula from the Georgian village of Plavi. This time, the boundary mark was damaged by using rifled weapons”, Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy Dzhioev said.

23 January

The press service of the South Ossetian de facto State Security Committee reported in January 2018 on “implemented measures to strengthen the border”:

“In 2017, for the first time since 2013, the Border Guard Service of the KGB of the Republic of South Ossetia began to equip the state border in engineering terms. In the area of ​​the settlement of Kalet, Znaur region, a barrier fence with a length of 1250 meters was installed. In addition 83 warning signs were installed at the entrances to the border zone of the Republic and on the state border. Despite the measures taken to improve the state border of the RSO, there are facts of damage to warning signs.”

Abduction, arrest and detention near ABL South Ossetia

Georgian civilians living around the Administrative Boundary Line frequently experience arrest, abduction and detention by Russian or South Ossetian “border guards” for alleged violation and trespassing of the “border”. This page keeps track of the latest developments of such arrests.

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18 January 2021

RFE/RL – Ekho Kavkaza reported Zaza Gakheladze, who was arrested on 11 July 2020 (see below) by South Ossetian authorities, was on trial in Tskhinvali on 18 January 2021. Gakheladze was shot by Russian controlled border guards after allegedly opening fire to them near the administrative boundary line.


28 December 2020

It was only on the 21st of January 2021 South Ossetian authorities released information a Georgian citizen of 27 years old was detained near Akhmaji (Akhalgori district) on 28 December 2020 for “illegally crossing the border”.

In another propaganda spin, the South Ossetian authorities used this case to project an image of society and economical desperation in Tbilisi administered territory: the Georgian detainee has been quoted by the Ossetian KGB as saying he “illegally crossed the South Ossetian-Georgian border in the hope of finding a job and staying for further residence in South Ossetia”. He allegedly said that he did not intend to return to Georgia and demonstratively spoiled his identity document.

The KGB also punned to Tbilisi “given the complex epidemiological and socio-political situation in Georgia, the Tbilisi regime should pay more attention to the problems of the population, which is forced to engage in illegal activities.”

24 December 2020

The detention in Tskhinvali of 33-year-old Zaza Gakheladze was extended by two months on 24 December 2020.  He was detained by South Ossetian forces at the dividing line on 11 July 2020, on charges of illegally crossing the “border” and opening fire at “border guards”. The detainee was wounded during the arrest (see more below at 11 July).

Acting State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Tea Akhvlediani criticized the step as “continuation of destructive policy”, yet also highlighted that Mirian Taziashvili of 63 years was released on 22 December. He was detained on 20 November (see below) near Zardiantkari. On 4 December he was sentenced to two months prison in Tskhinvali.

21 December 2020 and others reported on 21 December about the deteriorating health situation of 89-year-old Data Vanishvili, whose house and agricultural lands have been divided in two by borderization at Khurvaleti. Data Vanishvili is in critical condition with pneumonia and is not being allowed [by South Ossetian authorities] to enter Tbilisi-controlled territory to receive medical assistance. His wife said “Sometimes a doctor comes from Tskhinvali, sometimes from Akhalgori hospital. We are unable to leave the territory. Data’s health condition has deteriorated much over the past several days”.

There are also complications with relatives to visit the old man and take care of him: their daughter Nana lives in an adjacent village and has been threatened by South Ossetian forces not to enter the house, while their grandson Malkhaz who had tried to give him help was detained earlier this month and remains in the Russian-occupied Akhalgori district. Malkhaz’ wife was also shortly detained but released on 17 December and transfered to Tbilisi controlled territory as she is 8 months pregnant.

Data Vanishvili is often talking to foreign delegations through the barbed wire that separates his premises from Tbilisi controlled territory.

Data Vanishvili living separated by a barbed wire from Tbilisi controlled territory
Data Vanishvili living separated by a barbed wire from Tbilisi controlled territory
20 November 2020

A Georgian citizen was arrested and detained near Zardiantkari, Georgia’s State Security Service said. No further details were provided, the EUMM hotline was activated. The South Ossetian authorities used this and another case of 11 November in a new propaganda wave at the end of the month, portraying a desperate situation in Tbilisi administered Georgia which allegedly makes people want to go to South Ossetia, or provide food assistance from the South Ossetian side:

“According to the detainees, due to the spread of coronavirus infection, their relatives have lost their jobs and have no means of livelihood, and the Georgian leadership, busy with political confrontation after the parliamentary elections, has withdrawn itself from providing assistance to the population surviving in a pandemic. The reason for the transition in the [20 November Zardiantkari] case was the extremely low standard of living in this Georgian border settlement and the lack of elementary means of subsistence.”

A few days later, the South Ossetian authorities claimed to have detained two more Georgians, citing similar reasons of the detainees to “flee” to South Ossetia: “the lack of conditions for existence, the impossibility of employment, and meager pensions. This fact once again confirms the unwillingness of the Georgian authorities to deal with the problems of their population”. 

However, the situation in Akhalgori district where the Georgian population has been actively obstructed in their interaction with Tbilisi administered territory, has resulted in an increasing exodus of the local (Georgian) population. According to Democracy Research Institute 280 people have applied for relocation through the “Family Reunification Program”. Obviously denied as “fake news” by the South Ossetian authorities. But in fact, despite arguing the numbers, they confirmed dozens have already left the region through the program, having been “transported to Georgia for permanent residence”. Only a handful of people relocated to South Ossetia through this program. DRI summarizes the program and its conditions:

“The de facto South Ossetian government’s “Family Reunification” programme is a “legal” way of removing ethnic Georgians from Akhalgori. Anyone wishing to leave Akhalgori must first pay all utility bills and fines and submit the relevant documents to the local security service. In addition, it is necessary for them to obtain documents proving that their families are really waiting for them on the other side of the so-called border. The most important and dangerous part of the programme is the content of the “exit document”, according to which, the person leaving the district will not be allowed to return and will not reclaim the property he/she is leaving in Akhalgori.”

Reportedly on 24 November 2020 a Georgian citizen from Tbilisi “was detained by the border authorities of the republic for violating the regime of the State Border of the Republic of South Ossetia, on the southeastern outskirts of Tskhinvali. On the same morning, Beridze drove to the outskirts of the border settlement of Ditsi Gori municipality of Georgia, headed towards the South Ossetian-Georgian State Border and crossed it in the fuel and energy complex market area of ​​Tskhinvali. Having approached the stationary traffic police post of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of South Ossetia, the offender informed the law enforcement officers about crossing the border, motivating his actions with a desire to obtain political asylum and citizenship of the Republic of South Ossetia.” he was released and handed over to Georgian authorities on 1 December.

29 October 2020

According to the NGO Democracy Research Institute, a teacher from an Akhalgori secondary school has been detained, on charges of collaborating with the Georgian security forces and providing information about the Russian military unit to the Georgian side. The teacher is not known for any (political) activism.

25 September 2020

Georgian citizen Khvicha Mgebrishvili, who had been illegally detained by Russian-controlled forces for 85 days was released. This was agreed upon at the 97th IPRM meeting in Ergneti the day before. During this meeting a Russian helicopter violated Georgian airspace. It was allegedly spotted near Ergneti. Shortly after his release Mgebrishvili stated:

“I was going to Artsevi, when they arrested me and took me to Tskhinvali. I was treated well, I had no problem. Statements about bats, Americans and the lab are nonsense. I do not even speak English” 

28 August

A 28 year old resident of South Ossetia was allegedly tortured to death on 28 August in a Tskhinvali police station after he was arrested on charges of attempting to kill the region’s de facto Interior Minister Igor Naniev. The death caused massive public outcry in Tskhinvali, after which the de facto prosecutor general offered to resign, on condition MPs’ who led the protests would also resign. In the aftermath, de facto President Bibilov dismissed the government. Yet protesters demanded Bibilov to resign, which he refused saying “I have not been elected by 500 people”.

21 August

On 21 August de facto authorities in South Ossetia reported Khvicha Mghebrishvili, who was arrested on 3 July for “violating the state border”, was sentenced to 3 months detention (more background at 12 July below). This triggered concerns from both the Georgian government and his relatives. On 3 September Mghebrishvili’s family asked the Georgian government to take more effective steps to secure his release, while the International Red Cross has not been allowed access to Mghebrishvili to confirm his condition:

“I hope that our government will do it’s best to release our family member from Russia-occupied Tskhinvali prison. Nobody tells us whether Khvicha is alive or not. We ask the Georgian government to support us as it helped the family members of Georgian doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili, who was also abducted by occupation forces in November of 2019”

In an article at Radio Tavisupleba the verdict was described as a “legal absurdity”. It says, Khvicha Mghebrishvili “was tried by the Tskhinvali de facto court under the first part of Article 322 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation“. Article 322 says:

“Illegal entry of foreign nationals into the Russian Federation, their illegal stay in the territory of the Federation or illegal transit through the territory of the Russian Federation is punishable by imprisonment for up to 5 years or restriction of liberty for up to two years”. 

So, a judge of the Tskhinvali “court” sentenced Mghebrishvili for “violating the state border of the Russian Federation”, which is an absurdity. Even when one would consider South Ossetia’s self declared (independent) status from the point of view of the Tskhinvali de facto court. Mghebrishvili was detained near the boundary line between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali controlled territory, near the Adzvistavi village, nowehere near the Russian Federation.

30 July

On 30 July 2020 the 96th EUMM facilitated Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meeting took place. It was the first IPRM meeting in 11 months, after the South Ossetian side cancelled further meetings when Tbilisi refused to remove a police post near Tsnelisi village in August 2019. The most important topic for Tbilisi was the unconditional release of three citizens which were recently put in detention in Tskhinvali. Radio Tavispuleba spoke with various people about the result of the meeting.

IPRM Ergneti 30 July 2020
IPRM Ergneti 30 July 2020 (photo: EUMM Georgia)
25 July

According to Radio Tavisupleba, Georgian citizen Malkhaz Lezhava was detained by Russian controlled forces on 25 July 2020 near the Church of the Mother of God between Mejvriskhevi and Russian controlled Ghromi. The State Security Service of Georgia stated he has been set free and put in quarantine in the territory controlled by the central government of Georgia.

12 July (Mgebrishvili case)

On 12 July it got public knowledge (in Georgia) a Georgian citizen from Mejvriskhevi was arrested on 3 July by “occupying forces” near the ABL at Adzvi and put in COVID-19 quarantaine for two weeks. The de facto South Ossetian authorities reported on this on 10 July. On 19 July it was confirmed Khvicha Mghebrishvili remains in detention after clearing his 14 days quarantaine.

On 16 July the State Security Committee of South Ossetia reported Mgebrishvili not only “violated the State border” but that “he intended to get the so-called bat cocoons for sale in Georgia”.  According to the report came forward with this explanation himself, as reason to “violate the border”.  The South Ossetian de facto authorities already had a convenient story ready to join this explanation,  connecting it with the activities of the Lugar biolab in Tbilisi (once again):

“Regarding the testimony of Kh.A. Mgebrishvili, it is necessary to clarify that the bats living in the Republic of South Ossetia – Pointed-eared bat, like the rest of the bats, are viviparous and do not build any nests, cocoons and other shelters. At the same time, there is an increased interest in the population of South Ossetian bats mice, since 2012, has been showing the so-called. R. Lugar “Center for Public Health “

“In 2018, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), together with the Lugar Center, as a field laboratory, is implementing a US $ 2.9 million project on bats and coronaviruses. The program is designed for 5 years and is implemented with the help of NGOs” Eco Health Alliance “.

In this regard, the KGB of the Republic of South Ossetia emphasizes that the bat, Myotis blythi, inhabiting the territory of South Ossetia, is listed in the Red Book of the Republic of South Ossetia. Thus, any cross-border activity related to its extraction and illegal movement outside the Republic is qualified in accordance with Articles 258.1 and 226.1 of the Criminal Code and entails a corresponding criminal penalty in the form of imprisonment.

In other words, also in Mgebrishvili’s case just as with others recently a second crime is attached to the “border violation”, typically a more serious crime, up for long prison sentence.

The Head of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia under which the Lugar Lab resides, explained such a program investigating the relationship between bats and corona viruses does exists. But that the Center’s uses zoo-entomologists, not ordinary citizens as Tskhinvali suggests, in sample collection works. Gamkrelidze slammed the information released the region’s KGB as “lies” and “staged provocation.”

11 July (Gakheladze case)

IPN and others reported a Georgian citizen from Kvemo Chala was shot, arrested and taken by “occupying forces” from allegedly Tbilisi controlled territory near Skhivo Fortress, ~500 metres beyond the Administrative Boundary Line. According to local reports, he was injured which the State Security Service of Georgia confirmed.

According to South Ossetian de facto authorities the 33 year old Gakheladze crossed the ABL near Akhmaji and shot at the “border guards”. Return fire was the cause of his injuries, according to the State Security Committee of South Ossetia. Relatives said Gakheladze and his friend (who could escape) were picking mushrooms in the fields near the Skhvilo Fortress. They have frequently sighted Russian controlled “border guards” roaming around the Fortress which is Tbilisi controlled area.

Gakheladze was transported to Tskhinvali after a short stay in Akhalgori.  The Georgian MFA and the American Embassy both reacted with statements on the incident.

“Such a dangerous and unjustified incident would not have happened if Russia had fulfilled its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of the armed forces from pre-conflict positions and access to unhindered access to humanitarian aid. “

Meanwhile the Red Cross is trying to get to Gakheladze and information about his well being, as they are the only international organization with direct access to South Ossetia. By 14 July they still had no access to Gakheladze.

On 17 July the South Ossetian de facto authorities stated Gakheladze is charged with two crimes: “illegal crossing of the State Border and encroachment on the life of a law enforcement officer of the Criminal Code of the Russian FederationFurthermore, the press service of the regional KGB gave a rambling lecture written like an op-ed over the reasons why Georgia “whips up excitement”. it also takes aim again at the EUMM mission: “the mission decided to “actively” observe, while making biased but beneficial statements for Georgia”

A day later on 18 July the military prosecutor of South Ossetia stated Gakheladze shot at least five times at the border guards before being shot himself, while “moving deep into the territory of South Ossetia”. The latter is contrary to multiple statements of relatives and Gakheladze’s friend who was able to escape. 

Gahkeladze was transferred from hospital to an isolator in Tskhinvali, Georgian media reported on 26 July 2020. On 27 July the Red Cross is expected to visit Gakheladze, something it has been trying to do from the beginning. The ICRC is the only international organization allowed and active in South Ossetia.

07 July

A Georgian citizen who was detained for several months by Russian-controlled occupation forces for ‘illegally crossing the border’ was released on 7 July. She will return to her family after spending two weeks in the quarantine zone.

21 June

IPN and others reported on 21 June 2020: “Occupying forces detained a 60 year old shepherd on the outskirts of the village of Akhalubani on the perimeter of the dividing line on the territory of Gori Municipality”.  The shepherd was taken to Tskhinvali before being released the same day and transferred to Georgian authorities.

“Jumber Psitidze, a resident of Akhalubani, was grazing cattle with two villagers, during which armed uniforms appeared and he was arrested. The two shepherds who were with him managed to escape. According to the relatives of the detainee, the shepherds did not move to the occupied territories and the cattle were in the territory controlled by the central government of Georgia”.

07 May

The South Ossetian “State Security Committee” reported 30 “border violations” for April 2020, down from 41 in March. Most people were simply fined. An “increase of uncontrolled cattle grazing near the state border” was observed. 

16 April

Relatives of Data Vanishvili, a nationally well known local of Khurvaleti, have been detained by Russian controlled forces. They were on Georgian controlled territory  for several days. Data Vanishvili told VOA Georgia that first his grandson, who was on his way to Akhalgori, was arrested. The next day soldiers of the Russian military went to his house and pulled out his grandson’s wife.  Reportedly, the two were first taken to Akhalgori for detention. Subsequently they were transported to Tskhinvali for medical isolation in line with local policies regarding the coronavirus pandemic. After the quarantaine a trial will decide about the penalty for “illegally crossing the border”. They were released on 3 May 2020 after fulfilling a 2-week quarantaine.

Voice of America Georgia interviewed Data Vanishvili:

The de facto authorities in Tskhinvali claimed Georgian media distorted the story: “Due to the fact that Georgian citizens who were contacted by Vanishvili’s spouse could be carriers of the virus and in order to prevent the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic entering South Ossetia, a decision was made to isolate them for up to 14 days in the Tskhinval medical institution”.

They also highlighted another recent case, painting Georgians negatively: “In addition, the KGB is seriously concerned about the situation surrounding the observance of the right to life of ethnic Ossetians living in Georgia. So, on April 16, having violated the state border regime, a citizen of the Republic of South Ossetia and South Ossetia, an ethnic Ossetian with two minor children, arrived in South Ossetia from Georgia. Having not received protection in the law enforcement bodies of Georgia, fleeing regular domestic violence against her and children by her husband, a Georgian by nationality, she was forced to cross the state border and turn to the leadership of South Ossetia.”

Separately, according to the annual report of the Georgian State Security Service released on 16 April, 86 citizens were “illegally detained” in 2019 by South Ossetian de facto authorities (and 27 by Abkhazia).

13 April

In its monthly report on “state border violations” the KGB of South Ossetia warned that everyone in the “border zone” (a one km wide zone along the ABL) needs to “obtain permits for economic, fishing and other activities”. (such as access to arable land, hunting, etc.)

It notes “increasing facts of uncontrolled cattle grazing near the state border of the Republic of South Ossetia, which entail a violation of the state border regime and the border zone of South Ossetia”. In other words, farmers on either side of the ABL have to control their cattle better or obtain permits to be in the “border zone”.

06 March

In February 2020, 38 violators of “border regime” were detained at various sections of the “state border of South Ossetia”, the KGB of South Ossetia reported. This is up from 36 in January 2020. 

Subsequently, 26 people were fined, 5 were subjected to an administrative fine with expulsion from South Ossetia, 2 were expelled from the region without penalties (under Art. 14 of the Law “On the State Border of South Ossetia”), 3 were warned, and two violators were not punished.

05 March

A woman has been arrested and taken by militia from South Ossetia near the Administrative Boundary Line at the village of Bershueti. She has been transported to Tskhinvali for detention. The EUMM hotline has been activated. (see also 1TV, 05-03-2020)

27 February

A local Georgian resident (Eldar Gundishvili, 70) has been detained by Russian border troops near his village of Adzvi.  The EU Monitoring Mission has been informed of the incident and the emergency hotline has been activated. Georgia’s Foreign Minister Zalkaliani will raise the issue at the next Ergneti IPRM and Geneva GID meetings. The citizen was released the next day. It was his third arrest.

22 February

Sixteen year old Alika Shiukashvilki (turning 17 in March) was arrested at the Administrative Boundary Line near the village of Kirbali, and first taken to the Gromi (Russian) FSB base before being detained overnight in Tskhinvali. As is the standard procedure, the EUMM hotline was activated. The next day he was released.

Allegedly he “was collecting firewood in the forest together with his fellow-villagers when gunmen appeared.” His companions managed to escape, while he was taken by so-called “border guards”.

Abduction: Teenager from Kirbali village detained by Russian forces
Abduction: Teenager from Kirbali village detained by Russian forces (photo source: Qartli)

Activist Davit Katsarava provided information at the village about an SOS button he has been proposing. This is a device that can identify and geolocate where a civilian is. On Facebook and Radio Tavisupleba he said that if the residents of the occupation line have such technical equipment, it will be easy to find them in case of abduction. He is looking for additional funding for this project, with each button costing 110 USD.

More information:
Caucasian Knot


16 December

Russian-controlled forces allegedly detained 96-year-old Gora Garibashvili while he was trying to reach a cemetery near the village of Tsunevi, close to the boundary line, the Georgian Public Broadcaster reported. A day later he was back on Tbilisi controlled territory, Georgia’s State Security Service stated. The South Ossetian side however, claimed Garibashvili was not detained, but delivered to his relatives in Akhalgori by border guards after he was found disoriented in the boundary zone.

7 December

On December 7, 2019, four Georgian citizens were detained near Akhmaji by “border guards” for violation of South Ossetian border. The men were 15, 39, 43 and 57 years of age. The minor was expelled, against the three others court proceedings were prepared.

29 November

Near Khelchua a Georgian citizen was detained  for violating “border regime”, South Ossetia the KGB press service reported on 29-11-2019.  During inspection, about nine grams of marijuana was found on the suspect. Criminal proceedings were instituted and the Tskhinvali District Court decided to detain the suspect during  preliminary investigation

11 November

Two men were detained in the outskirts of the village of Kodistskaro by Russian controlled security forces. The detainees were then transferred to Tskhinvali controlled territory. Locals said they were shepherding their cattle on Tbilisi administered territory.

9 November

Well known Georgian doctor and traumatotogist Vazha Gaprindashvili and three others were detained by Russian-controlled forces, Georgian State Security Service confirmed. According to South Ossetian authorities the men were detained on 9 November (confirmed by Radio Tavisupleba).

Gaprindashvili  was eventually sent to two years of prison before being released in December 2019 after strong international pressure.

6 November

A 28-year-old Georgian man was detained by South Ossetian de facto security forces in the outskirts of Kveshi near the ABL. Zakro Butkhuzi’s family says he was working in the vineyard with his brother, which adjoins the village of Zemo Artsevi, located on the occupied territory. He was released two days later.

25 August

On October 22, 2019, Radio Tavisupleba and others reported Lasha Khetereli, from refugee settlement Shaumiani (Marneuli district) was released from a two month prison sentence in Tskhinvali, South Ossetia. He was arrested on August 25 for “illegal border crossing” when visiting his grandmother.

A week earlier his name appeared in a report about prisoner abuse in Tskhinvali prison.

22 August

24-year-old Giorgi Zangurashvili, was detained for “illegally crossing” the so-called “border” by Russian occupation forces near the village of Artsevi, where a Russian military base is located. He has been released the next day, the State Security Service of Georgia confirmed. The de-facto security committee reported the detainee had health problems and therefore he would be transferred to the Georgian side without any penalty.

20 August

A Georgian citizen was detained on 20 August 2019 in the southeastern outskirts of Tskhinvali for violating the state border of the republic, the KGB of South Ossetia said. reported as well.

According to South Ossetian authorities, “the offender was brought to administrative responsibility in the form of a fine, followed by expulsion according to part 2 of article 4 of the law “On administrative responsibility in the field of protecting the state border”.

17 – 18 August

In the weekend of 17-18 August eight Georgians were arrested along the Administrative Boundary Line by Russian led “border guards”, on two locations: seven at a church near Adzvistavi and one person near Akhalubani. They were transported to the Tskhinvali isolator. The South Ossetian side changed their story during the day. They claimed all eight were arrested at the same location, the St George church near Adzvistavi (see map), drunk and in possession of drugs “of plant origin”.

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The situation in the map: in green both FSB bases in area, and in violet the arrest locoations

The Foreign Ministry of Georgia stated that the borderization at Gugutiantkari last week and the abduction of Georgians this weekend near the ABL is a clear attempt at destabilizing the country.  The Deputy Foreign Minister added that he will continue to increase international pressure on Russia (but refrained from elaborating on the “how” except for mobilizing). The number of people arrested in one day is unusual.

Tskhinvali base

The seven (young) Georgian citizens were visiting a church in the wooded hills just outside of Adzvi village to lit candles according to one of the mothers. The church is situated between the Adzvistavi FSB base and Ghromi FSB base which covers this side of the river bank. The detained were allegedly taken to the Adzvistavi base. Despite the boundary line used in Google Maps and OpenStreetMap, suggesting the locations are within the “South Ossetian” area, the territory is considered to be Georgian controlled. Yandex Map uses a different demarcation (see below).

Locals told Rustavi2 the situation on the ground lacks clear indication of the boundary line, causing the occupying forces randomly arresting people claiming they trespassed. This causes a lot of anxiety, as by far most alleged trespassing is unintended, often related to farming.  The youngsters were arrested around 18:00-19:00, and the hotline with the EUMM was quickly activated. A drone video of the area and the chapel with the cars visibly parked and abandoned, was shot by David Katsarava:

Rustavi2 reported on Sunday all three cars St George church have been transferred to the Georgian authorities, and will be forensically investigated. They were released by the South-Ossetian de facto authorities to units of the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs.


In the morning of 18 August information was released another Georgian citizen was arrested nearby Akhalubani. He is a local from Mejvriskhevi, having been arrested previously for “border trespassing” as his uncle told Radio Tavisupleba.  Just like the other seven he has been transferred to the Tskhinvali isolator. Radio Tavisupleba (RFE/RL) reported live from the site:

Update – 20 August

On August 20 the eight Georgians were released by the de facto Tskhinvali authorities. After paying a fine they were handed over to Georgian authorities and returned to their homes.

11 May

Two residents of Kvemo Chala were detained on 11 May 2019 near the boundary line of South Ossetia “illegally crossing the border”. Dimitri Isergishvili and Vasil Patarkatsishvili, were picking asparagus at the edge of the village of Karapila.

5 May

Russian border guards have arrested and abducted 80-year-old Amiran Meladze on 5 May 2019 from his village Kveshi, Gori district. His house is located near the boundary line, and reportedly he was harvesting asparagus in his garden. He was taken in the direction of Artsevi.

23 April

Two residents of Nikozi, Gabriel Melanashvili and Tamaz Mchedlidze, were detained on 23 April for “violating the border of South Ossetia”. Allegedly they were held in Tskhinvali prison, while locals claimed the de facto authorities of South Ossetia demanded $295 for their release.

Upon their release the next day, South Ossetian authorities they let them go without a fine. They cited health problems of one of the two men, something his mother said a day earlier.  Locals said they went to clean graves at the cemetery near the village, ahead of Easter holiday.

20 April

Occupation forces detained Georgian citizen Gocha Pidiuri near his village Mejvriskhevi close to the ABL with South Ossetia for “illegally crossing the border”, Georgian media reported. His neighbours said Pidiuri was often visiting the Lomisi shrine located near the boundary line. Two days later he was released and transferred to Georgian authorities at Ergneti.

13 March

Two Georgian citizens, Alan Marghishvili and Giorgi Chitishvili, from Karapila and Zadiantkari were detained near the ABL for “illegally crossing the border” on 13 March 2019.  They were released the next day.

26 February

The Georgian State Security Service reported 327 Georgian citizens have been detained “by occupying forces for illegally crossing the border” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia between 2017 and 2019. Near the South Ossetian ABL 242 persons were detained for “illegally crossing the border”, the remaining 85 in Abkhazia (in 2019 so far 16 and 4 respectively)

4 February

Occupying forces detained a cleric, Father David Durglishvili, near the village of Nikozi in the evening of 4 February 2019, claiming he “illegally crossed the border”. Witnesses say the cleric was on his own agricultural farm land on territory under the control of the central Georgian government. The next day he was released.


23 December

Russian controlled “border guards” arrested a resident of Khurvaleti village for ‘illegally crossing the border’ on 23 December 2018. He was released a day later.

2 November

De facto parliament of Georgia’s South Ossetia region increased the penalty for ‘illegally crossing the border’ with Georgia to $300 as they deemed the current amount of $30 to be ineffective. More than GEL 116.000 ($42.000) has been collected between 2008 and 2017 and added to the separatist budget.

The representative of the border service of the KGB of South Ossetia informed de facto lawmakers that since 1 January 2018 to date 460 people violated the “state border of the republic”, an increase of 10% compared to 2017. [Note: this may include people coming from Russia via Roki as the Georgian numbers don’t match]. He also noted in October 58 violators (53 in September) were detained, of which 44 were fined. 

20 October

Two Georgians from Okami (Kaspi municipality), were detained on 20 October 2018 by “border guards” of South Ossetia near Akhmaji for “violating the border“.

The same day two men (18 and 32) were arrested  by “border guards” of South Ossetia near Lomisi’s St George Church monastery which is located on the ABL. One of the detainees is a temporary resident of the monastery, the other a priest. They were set free the next day “on humane considerations” without penalties.

Usually the clergymen go down to the Ksani Gorge in Tskhinvali controlled territory to get water which is lacking at the monastery. This time a new resident of the monastery went down, who the Russian controlled militia did not know and recognize as from Lomisi, father David explained.

St. George's Church in Lomisi
St. George’s Church in Lomisi, looking towards Tbilisi controlled territory and the Caucasus mountain range.
6 October

Russian controlled forces kidnapped a 50 year old Georgian citizen from the village of Kirbali (Gori municipality) on 6 October 2018. He was detained for so called “illegally crossing the border” near the ABL of South Ossetia. He was released on 9 October together with another detainee and transferred at Ergneti (see below).

29 September

Khurvaleti resident Maia Otinashvili (37) was detained by Russian controlled “border guards” in her village allegedly from her own garden. Villagers said she was near the administrative boundary line when armed individuals detained her and transported her in the direction of Tskhinvali.

On 2 October Maia Otinashvili was sent to 10 days pre-trial detention (instead of 2 months as reported originally) on accusations that also assists people to “illegally cross the border between Georgia and South Ossetia”, receiving payment. Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria shared on 3 October

“We understood from the family of Otinashvili that she was beaten on the Russian military base in Kardzmani village. Even though Otinashvili has a lawyer he was not allowed to see the detainee. None of the independent observers were permitted to see her, which gives credibility to the family’s suspicion that she has been beaten,”

Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were allowed to see Maia Otinashvili in prison later that day, but guidelines prohibit the organization to disclose details to the media. “We will provide the information in a closed format with the responsible state bodies” the ICRC stated. South Ossetian press agency organized local journalists talking to her: she denied the alleged abuse. On 9 October, after 10 days of detention, she was released and transferred to Georgian authorities at Ergneti.  According to South Ossetian “state media” Otinashvili was convicted for “violating the state border” receiving a  probational sentence of one year.

Transfer of two Georgian citizens at Ergneti
Transfer of two Georgian citizens at Ergneti. They were detained on 29 September and 7 October by “border guards” of South Ossetia region.
1 September

Two polish citizens were detained on 1 September 2018 by South Ossetian “border guards” in the Java district near the abandoned village of Khoz (Хоз) for allegedly “violating the state border between Georgia and South Ossetia”.  They were trekking to Keli Lake in Truso Gorge. After paying a fine they were released on 3 September and expelled from the South Ossetia region.

28 August

Five Georgian hikers were detained on 28 August 2018 for ‘violating the state border’ with Georgia’s occupied region of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia), officials from Tskhinvali confirmed. The young hikers from Tbilisi started their journey on 24 August to reach Keli Lake in the pictorial Truso Gorge in the northeastern Georgia in Kazbegi Municipality. They were released and transferred on 30 August.

On the same day a 67 year old shepherd was detained near Balta for ‘violating the state border’ with Georgia’s occupied region of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia).

31 July

Russian controlled border guards kidnapped a Georgian citizen near Sakorintlo, Kaspi municipality on territory administered by the central Georgian government on 31 July 2018. The State Security Service of Georgia confirmed the man was kidnapped for so called “illegal crossing of border” of South Ossetia.

10 July

According to the KGB of South Ossetia a 40-year-old woman from Rustavi was detained by “border guards” near the village of Balta on 10 July 2018, for “violating the state border regime”. The press service of the State Security Committee added that after facing a court and paying a fine, she violator was expelled back to Tbilisi controlled Georgia.

6 July

Russia-controlled border guards abducted a 28-year-old Georgian citizen in the village of Akhrisi, Gori municipality, near the occupation line with South Ossetia region, on 6 July 2018. Three days later he was released after paying a 2000 RUB (31 USD) fine.

And later that day a 2nd Georgian was arrested for “illegally crossing the border”, near Akhalubani village. 24 year old Giorgi Kujoshvili was taken to the Ardevisi FSB base, only to be released on 10 July, after the fine was paid. According to Imedi News he lives alone, while his relatives live in Vladikavkaz (North Ossetia-Alania, Russia).

30 June

A 16 year old high school student from Chvirnisi which is located near the boundary line of South Ossetia was arrested by the so called border guards of South Ossetia on 30 June 2018. He was released two days later after his family paid a fine amounting to 2,000 Russian rubles (31 USD).

29 June

Russian controlled border guards of South Ossetia detained on 29 June 2018 a 94-year-old Georgian citizen in the village of Sakorintlo, Kaspi municipality, on Tbilisi-administered territory. Locals said they saw how armed “border guards” attacked the old man and kidnapped him. It is the second time he was abducted by occupants.

21 June

Caucasian Knot reported two residents of 19 and 27 year old from the “border” village of Bershueti were detained on 21 June 2018 by Russian border guards. According to their relatives, the young men were detained when going to a village chapel, “Georgia Online” reported. They were taken to Tskhinvali.

Villagers said three other local residents were near the chapel together with the two arrested, but they returned to the village before the “border guards” arrived at the place. 

20 June

Caucasian Knot reported based on a South Ossetian KGB press release a 22-year-old Georgian was detained on 20 June 2018 near Ksuisi in Tskhinvali controlled territory. He is a resident from Mereti village (Gori District).

The Tskhinvali de facto District Court opened a case against him under Article 322 of the Russian Criminal Code (“illegal border crossing”) and put him in pre-trial custody for two months “due to repeated violation of the border”.

“It has been established that this person had already been detained in May for a similar offense and was subjected to administrative liability with subsequent expulsion out of South Ossetia,” the KGB said in its statement.

17 June

68 year old shepherd Misha Petriashvili, herding cattle with two fellow villagers, was kidnapped on 17 June 2018 from Akhalubani, Gori district near the ABL of South Ossetia. Locals said the three people were on Georgian controlled territory at the moment of the incident and did not cross the so-called “border”. On 18 June South Ossetian authorities stated they prepared a trial at Tskhinvali District Court.

Near the village of Disevi under de facto control of South Ossetia, a 38 year old resident of Kobuleti was arrested and detained.  Due to his health he was released the next day without penalties, and transferred to Georgian authorities.

16 June

Caucasian Knot reported that according to Georgian “Channel One” Russian controlled militias arrested a woman with two young children near Atotsi on the “border” with South Ossetia. They tried to visit her relatives in South Ossetia, “Georgia-Online” added. Unlike usual, they were not taken to the detention centre in Tskhinvali but were released on site. 

The Georgian village of Atotsi is located on the Georgian-South-Ossetian dividing line. Close to it is the village of Balta, Znaur District, which after the 2008 war got unde South ossetian control. Many residents of the two villages are relatives.
15 June

Near the South Ossetian controlled village of Artsevi a 41 year old resident of Kveshi, on Tbilisi controlled territory close to the ABL, was arrested and detained on 15 June 2018. On 18 June information was released by South Ossetian de facto authorities a trial was prepared for so called “violation of the state border”.

6 June

South Ossetian de facto authorities reported 35 people were detained in May for “violating the border regime”, compared to 45 in April.

5 June

On 5 June the South Ossetian de facto authorities announced they would “strengthen control over the state border regime” in June and July by “planning joint activities aimed at preventing violations in the border sphere”.

A priest was detained near Dvani village by Russian controlled “border guards” of South Ossetia in the early morning of 5 June 2018. Ioane Okhanashvili is pastor of Saint George’s Church in Dirbi, located a few kilometres away from the South Ossetian ABL. The priest was released the same day, without a penalty .

Shepherd Teimuraz Dudashvili, 58 years and of Ossetian etnicity, was detained by Russian controlled “border guards” near Tsitelubani on 5 June 2018 while herding his cattle. He was taken by force to Tskhinvali by according to his neighbours, and released a day later.

24 May

A 23-years old resident of Plavi was detained on 24 May 2018 by so-called border guards near the administrative boundary line. He was herding cattle near his land while he was detained for “illegally crossing” the so called border.

17 May

Russia-controlled “border guards” detained on 17 May 2018 near Zemo Dvani a 29 year old Georgian citizen from Tirdznisi village. Locals said that the detained allegedly could not find the way and accidently appeared on the territory which is under Russia’s control. They said the young man who suffers from a serious heart disease, has been detained for “illegal crossing of border”. Due to his health problems he was released the next day without penalties.

25 April

Russian-controlled border guards detained Sergo Darbaidze (50) near the administrative boundary line of Georgia’s South Ossetia region. His family stated he was abducted in the evening of 25 April 2018 when he was herding cattle in his own garden, in Kveshi. Darbaidze was detained for “illegally crossing the border” and was taken to a Tskhinvali detention facility.

His son told media “the territory is controlled by Georgia. After the abduction Sergo phoned me and told me that he was in Tskhinvali detention facility.”

21 April

A Georgian citizen of Kere (Gori municipality), Akaki Misireli (66), was detained near the administrative boundary line of breakaway South Ossetia by “border guards” on 21 April 2018. He was taken to Tskhinvali’s police department for detention. This news led to protests by representatives of the Strength in Unity movement, which, in particular, began to patrol the territory near the village of Kere. After paying a fine in South Ossetia, he was handed over to Georgian law enforcement officers at the roadblock  in Ergneti, on 23 April.

20 April

A 31 year old resident, Soso Dvalishvili, from Gori municipality was detained by South Ossetian “border guards” near Ghromi on 20 April 2018. He was released on April 23 after paying a fine for “violating the border”, together with Akaki Misireli (above).

On 20 April 2018, Elizbar Mestumrishvili (77) was detained by Russian-controlled border guards in Jariasheni (Gori municipality), near the administrative boundary line with South Ossetia. Locals said he was herding cattle on territory controlled by Georgia. After being taken to Tskhinvali for detention he was released the next day.

18 April

A Georgian citizen (52) was detained by Russia-controlled border guards near Plavismani (Gori municipality) on 17 April 2018. According to Georgia’s State Security Service, Tamaz Iluridze was accused of illegally crossing the so-called border. He was released and expelled to Tbilisi controlled territory the next day after paying a fine. Locals said that Iluridze was herding cattle with his neighbor Gela Giunashvili when armed “border guards” detained him. Giunashvili managed to escape and inform the police. According to the residents of the village, the incident took place while the two were on Georgia-controlled territory.

9 April

Traffic police officers in South Ossetia, serving in a stationary post in the village of Avnevi (Znaur district), arrested a 35-year-old Georgian citizen on 9 April 2018.  He crossed the administrative boundary line at Tsnelisi (Znaur district) and was walking to Tskhinvali. He was accused of “illegally crossing the border” and subsequently transferred to the FSB border service in Tskhinvali.

7 April

Two locals of Adzvi village, Eldar Gundishvili and Temur Kazievi, who were illegally detained by Russian occupants on 7 April 2018, were released a day later. Eldar Gundishvili said he was detained while he was grazing his cattle in his own yard.

22 March

Two Georgian citizens of 27 and 41 year old from Akhalsopeli and Adzvi (Gori municipality) were detained on 22 March 2018 by Russian controlled border guards “for violating the state border of South Ossetia”. This happened near Adzvistavi.

14 February

A Georgian and Russian citizen were detained near Tskhinvali controlled Prisi, for alleged “violation of the state border”, RES reported on 14 February 2018.  According to the local KGB the Russian citizen, with the help from the Georgian, “tried to hide from criminal responsibility in Georgia, using the territory of the Republic of South Ossetia as a transit area”. They were transferred to Russian authorities at Roki border checkpoint. 

7 February

A 50 year old citizen of Georgia was taken by Russian controlled forces “for violating the state border regime” near Khelchua, RES reported on 12 February.  The de facto KGB inquiry agencies opened a criminal case under Article 322 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (illegal border crossing), as he has been detained multiple times for similar “offenses” in 2017. The Tskhinvali District Court detained him for the duration of the preliminary investigation (for a period of 2 months)

In January the de facto authorities arrested 19 Georgians for “violation of the state border with Georgia”, the KGB of South Ossetia stated. Most of them were fined.


In April 2018 Georgia’s State Security Service (SSS) released its annual report. It recollects 126 Georgian citizens were illegally detained by Russia-controlled border guards in 2017, at the administrative boundary line with South Ossetia. And 52 others at the Abkhazian administrative boundary line. The individuals were detained for the “illegal crossing of the border” and many of them were released shortly after paying a fine. According to the South Ossetia de facto authorities a total of 514 “violators of the state border with Georgia were detained“, reportedly 11% less than in 2016.