South Ossetia ABL: risk of arrest by Russian border guards

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. Archived years can be found  in the left sidebar. While having mapped incidents since 2014, the blogged chronology is currently only available from 2017 onwards. 

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2022

24 November 2022

A Georgian citizen was detained by Russian controlled border guards near Artsevi, in occupied territory. Standard hotline protocol was followed, no other details were provided.

1 November 2022

Three Georgian citizens were detained by Russian controlled “border guards” near the occupation line at Georgian controlled village Mejvriskhevi (Gori municipality). One of the detained was a minor. Standard hotline procedures were followed by the Georgian security authorities. On 3 november 2022 the trio was released and handed over to Georgian authorities.

19 October 2022

A 55 year old Georgian citizen was arrested and detained on 19 October 2022 by Russian controlled troops near the village of Bershueti (Gori municipality). The arrested Tamaz Glurjidze has been transferred to the Tskhinvali police detention center. The Georgian State Security Service confirmed the media reports about the matter.

According to relatives of the detainee, Glurjidze was visiting one of his fellow villagers, and after leaving the said family, he did not return home. Later, Glurjidze contacted his family members by phone and informed them that he was in an isolation cell in occupied Tskhinvali. Glurjidze was released the next day.

27 September 2022

The Georgian State Security Service announced on 27 September 2022 a Georgian citizen was released by South Ossetian de facto authorities. He was detained in June 2022 by Russian controlled troops.

12 September 2022

The Georgian State Security Service said in a statement on 12 September 2022 that a Georgian citizen was released on 9 September by South Ossetian de facto authorities. He was detained on 6 April 2022 by occupation forces near the administrative boundary line near Adzvi. 

24 August 2022

A 23 year old citizen of the United States was released on 24 August 2022 by South Ossetian de facto authorities and expelled to Georgian controlled territory. He was arrested on 27 July 2022 by Russian controlled forces near the village Balaani, located in the Akhalgori (Leningor) district of South Ossetia. The South Ossetian sidenoted that the responsibility for this incident lies entirely with the leadership of Georgia and the United States, which refuse to recognize the sovereignty of South Ossetia and purposefully hide from foreign citizens the fact that there is a state border between South Ossetia and Georgia”.

18 August 2022

The de facto South Ossetian authorities reduced the sentence of former Georgian serviceman Mamuka Chkhikvadze to three years and 8 months for “smuggling marijuana”. The 31-year old man was arrested on 10 December 2021 (see below) and was charged with “illegally crossing the border” while allegedly having “more than four grams of marijuana” with him. The original sentence was five years.

One day prior former Georgian serviceman Levan Machabelli was released on after nearly 5 months of detention and transferred to Georgian controlled territory, the Georgian Security Service said in a statement. He was arrested on 26 March 2022 by Russian controlled troops for “violating the border” near Zemo Artsevi.

5 August 2022

On 5 August 2022 two Georgian citizens were released from South Ossetian detention, and transferred to Georgian controlled territory. They were arrested in December 2021 by Russian controlled troops near Lopani village at the South Ossetian ABL for “violating the border”.

13 July 2022

In the first half of 2022, “209 violators of the border regime were detained“, the South Ossetian KGB reported on 13 July 2022. If those, 134 were detained for “violation of the state border”, the occupation line with central-Georgia. In total 139 people got an administrative fine, some were expelled, while seven were criminally prosecuted and three criminal Investigations were ongoing. The KGB announced to tighten the compliance with the so called “border regime”, meaning only people with a valid ID and in some cases additional documentation can be present near the de facto border.

31 March 2022

Georgian media reported on  31 March 2022 Russian controlled forces have illegally detained a Georgian citizen near (Zemo) Artsevi (occupied South Ossetia). This is confirmed by the Georgian State Security Service, while South Ossetian media outlet RES reported the detention took place on 26 March 2022. The hot line through EU Monitoring Mission has been activated. The Georgian security service dismissed claims the detained person is in service of the Georgian military.

According to the South Ossetian KGB security services, the Georgian citizen (born 1987) was “a serviceman of the 3rd brigade of the Georgian Armed Forces between 2005-2009 and took an active part in the hostilities in August 2008 on the territory of South Ossetia”.  They further claimed he “tried to join the Georgian National Legion and, as a volunteer, take part in hostilities against the Russian Armed Forces in the Donbass.” Upon allegedly being rejected, the KGB said he decided to “illegally enter the territory of South Ossetia and commit a provocation against the Russian military contingent stationed in the Republic”
They also accused the Georgian police of not detaining him. A well versed propaganda story of “Georgian Russophobia”.

22 January 2022

Reported on 24 january 2022 by South Ossetian RES: “Border guards in South Ossetia detained a Georgian citizen who violated the state border of the republic and handed him over to the Georgian side”. He was detained on 22 January, and released without a penalty citing health conditions. According to the South ossetian authorities he went to South Ossetia due to “economic difficulties and impossibility to find a job”.

14 January 2022

In December 2021 55 people were detained for violation of South Ossetia’s de facto border regime, the region’s KGB released. Of those, 33 violated the so called “state border” with Georgian controlled territory, and 22 the border zone regime. This is the regime that any South Ossetian resident needs a permit to be within the minimum distance from the “border”, for example to visit a cemetary, chapel, or house close to the boundary line. 

5 January 2022

Radio Tavisupleba reported on 5 January 2021 based on a statement released by the Georgian State Security Service Georgian citizen Lasha Khetereli, an IDP from Liakhvi gorge, was  arrested for the 6th time on 24 December by Russian occupying forces. He was sentenced to 2 months “pre-trial detention”. He was detained near Tskhinvali, a more precise location is not known.

He spent almost a year in Tskhinvali prison for “violating the border” and was released on 17 June 2021 (see below). As he served his sentence imposed by a Tskhinvali court, he was transfered to Georgian authorities. Lasha Khetereli has been living in the Shaumiani IDP settlement since the 2008 war, writes Radio Tavispubleba. He has relatives in South Ossetia region  and travels there periodically to visit them. 

2021

29 December 2021

The Georgian State Security Service released a statement on 29 December 2021 two Georgian citizens have  been arrested by Russian occupying forces near Gremiskhevi village, Dusheti Municipality, which is close to the boundary line with South Ossetia. According to Power in Unity activists they were taken from Georgian controlled territory. They were released the next day.  According to reports, the two men were collecting firewood in the forest when the Russian military came to them.

“I was near the occupation line of Gremiskhevi, where we were detained by the Russians. First they moved us to Akhalgori, then to Tskhinvali isolator. During the arrest, the Russians fired twice in our direction. We dodged the bullets by accident. We were in the territory controlled by Georgia, Russians came to our territory. During arrest there was a beating. The only question they had was whether I was in the army, to which we answered negatively” said one of the freed Georgian citizens.

Three weeks later, on 18 January 2022, South Ossetian authorities  claimed the men “attempted to move household goods from Georgia to South Ossetia, intended for subsequent sale by local residents on the territory of Leningor district of the Republic.” 

27 December 2021

On the 27th of December 2021 the Georgian State Security Service released a statement two Georgian citizens have  been detained on 15 December by Russian controlled forces near Lopani village. The village is located inside South Ossetian controlled territory, close to the de facto boundary of South Ossetia and near the Chorchana forest. IAlthough it is a contested area between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali such arrests are rare in this area due to the hard to penetrate forest. 

"Smuggling tobacco" from South Ossetia
“Smuggling tobacco” from South Ossetia

The two men have been accused of smuggling tobacco to Georgian controlled territory. They were charged on 23 December through the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation with Article 200.2 (“Smuggling of alcoholic beverages and (or) tobacco products”) and Article 322 (“Illegal crossing of the State Border”). They were subsequently sentenced to two months prison.

The South Ossetian side showed “visual proof” of the crime: six big bags full with (contraband) cigarettes, while not elaborating how these two men were going to smuggle this large amount to Georgian controlled territory through the dense forest. Ny December 2021 nice georgians are in South Ossetian detention, some for alleged smuggling which has become a convenient accusation to keep border violators” longer in detention as pressure on Tbilisi 

23 December 2021

The Georgian State Security Service released a statement on 23 December 2021 four Georgian citizens were detained on the 22nd by Russian controlled forces, near the Georgian village Adzvi close to the de facto boundary with South Ossetia and a short distance from the Russian Advistavi FSB base. The detainees are 54, 41, 30 and 25 years old, Radio Tavisupleba reports.

They were released the next day following “active use” of the hotline, which operates through the EU Monitoring Mission. Radio Tavisupleba reports the men went to the St George chapel, which is near the ABL, where they wanted to light a candle and were then taken. A similar group detention at St George chapel took place in 2019.   

20 December 2021

A Georgian citizen who was detained on 14 August 2021 by Russian controlled forces in South Ossetria was released on 19 December. The State Security Service of Georgia (SSG) stated that Tbilisi repeatedly called for his release at the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRM) meetings and the Geneva International Discussions (GID). 

According to Gochoshvili’s own account, he had visited his uncle in the occupied region to bring medicine, and was on the way back to Georgia proper when he was arrested.  He said he had three packs of cigarettes with him, for which the Tskhinvali authorities had accused him of smuggling, sentencing him to one year imprisonment.

15 December 2021

South Ossetian KGB Border Service reported 35 “border zone violators” were detained in November 2021. Most of them were fined and expelled. 

12 December 2021

On 12 December 2021 Russian controlled forces have detained a Georgian citizen, a resident of Breti (Kareli Municipality), near Zemo Nikozi village (Gori Municipality) around the Russian occupation line of South Ossetia, according to the State Security Service of Georgia. The hotline was activated, which operates through the EU Monitoring Mission.  His whereabouts were unclear to relatives for days after the detention. 

10 December 2021

The State Security Service of Georgia (SSG) said on 10 December 2021 Russian occupying forces detained two Georgian citizens nearby Tsninagari village, located in Akhalgori Municipality, near the South Ossetia occupation line. 

The South Ossetian KGB decided on 15 December to initiate criminal cases against both Georgians on the grounds of “illegal border crossing” (Article 322 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) and “drug smuggling” (Article 229.1). Both Georgians remain detained. 

1 December 2021

The State Security Service of Georgia (SSG) said on 1 December 2021 Russian occupying forces detained a Georgian citizen nearby Vaneli village, located in Java district, deep inside South Ossetia. After hotline activation he was released on 3 December, saying he was physically abused. 

According to him, as reporters noted, he climbed over two fences on the occupation line, nearby Ergneti (south of Tskhinvali) and walked by foot to Tskhinvali town. From there he traveled by car to Java district and then walked again for about five hours by foot before being arrested.  He said he was trying to cross from Java into Russia, where he was going for work and medical treatment. He tried to cross to official Georgian-Russian border at Kazbegi-Larsi, but was deported from there, hence he tried it this way. 

16 November 2021

Genadi Bestaev, who was detained on 29 November 2019 and sentenced to three years prison in Tskhinvali in March 2021 for “illegally crossing the border” and “illegal drug smuggling”, was released on 16 November 2021. This was announced after his health deteriorated in South Ossetian detention and experiencing a stroke.  According to Georgian sources he was transferred in comatose critical condition in a Tbilisi hospital. 

28 October 2021

According to the State Security Service Georgia, 2 Georgian citizens were kidnapped/detained on 28 October 2021 by Russian controlled forced near Lopani village in the sparsely populated forested hills north of Chorchana. The precise location is not known. In this area it is uncommon for citizens to become victim of such arrest. A day after they were released. 

4 October 2021

According to the State Security Service Georgia, 3 Georgian citizens were kidnapped/detained on 4 October by Russian controlled forced near Ergneti village, in occupied territory.  According to SSSG one “illegally detained person will be handed over to the Georgian central government in the near future”.  He was indeed transferred on 5 October to Georgian authorities as he “probably has a health problem”. The other two were released on 6 October.

IPN pressagency wrote “according to one of the versions spread by the media in the occupied Tskhinvali region, a Georgian citizen tried to escape during the arrest, when s/he was injured.”. This was later confirmed when medical authorities explained the injured person fell down 10-12 meters.

16 September 2021 

The Georgian State Security Service reported on 16 September 2021 a (Georgian) shepherd from Kirbali village was detained by Russian controlled troops near the ABL of South Ossetia. According to locals and the State Security Service he was taken from Tbilisi controlled territory. After a few hours he was released. 

Power in Unity activists recorded aerial footage (YouTube) showing Russian controlled troops in the area had a German Shepherd dog with them, roaming around the forest near the ABL. One of them ran away into the bush when detecting the drone. On top of a hill they have a hideout, the video shows. 

15 September 2021 

South Ossetian de facto authorities reported an uptick of detained citizens for “illegally crossing the border” from 19 in July to 38 in August 2021.  They said 22 individuals were fined, while others were released without paying a fine. 

26 August 2021

A US citizen was detained by Russian-controlled occupation forces near Zemo Erman (ზემო ერმანი, Verkhniy Yerman) in the Java District of South Ossetia on 26 August 2021 for ‘illegally crossing the border’ and was taken to Tskhinvali prison. He was released 11 days later on 6 September.  The American visited Georgia as tourist to hike along the entire main ridge of the Caucasus Mountains when he accidentally crossed the de facto boundary line. According to South Ossetian RES Agency, the American was not aware of the conflict line and the risks this ensued, as he “could not, through the official American and Georgian media, as well as various tourist materials, receive comprehensive information”.

In all fairness, this information is quite simply and openly available in national travel advises of western foreign ministries, including the US, which explicitly explains the situation on the ground and red flags visits to the boundary zones. 

Yet, this incident underscores once more the vicinity of the boundary line is a danger zone for both tourists and locals.  

14 July

After more than a year detention by South Ossetian authorities, Zaza Gakheladze was released and pardoned of his 12 year sentence. This came a day after the 101st IPRM meeting in Ergneti which was focused on the unconditional release of Georgian citizens from South Ossetian “illegal detention”.

Upon the intervention of Patriarch Kirill of the Russian orthodox church Gakheladze was pardoned in exchange of the Georgian release on 13 July of a South Ossetian resident who was arrested at the Verkhniy Lars checkpoint of the Russian-Georgian border.

7 July

In June 2021, 32 violators of “legislation in the border sphere were detained at various sections of the state border of the Republic of South Ossetia”, the press service of the local KGB announced. This includes South Ossetian residents who violated the so called “border zone regime”. Under this regime, “it is necessary to apply in advance for appropriate permits when traveling to settlements located in the border zone of South Ossetia, the KGB reminded in the press release. With the agricultural season, many local farmers in South Ossetia need to be near the boundary line, and thus need to have a special permit to be there. 

26 June
The incident is illustrative of the way local villagers are increasingly deprived of access to their churches and cemeteries close to the boundary line, even when they are in Tbilisi controlled territory. Locals are becoming increasingly vigilant, hesitant and fearsome to visit their religious and burial sites.  
17 June

After nearly a year in South Ossetian detention, Georgian citizen Lasha Khetereli was released after finishing his sentence and was transferred to Georgian authorities. He was detained on 30 June 2020 for “violation of the State border of South Ossetia“.  His sentence was one year as “this offender was repeatedly detained for similar offenses”, the South Ossetian authorities defended.  

15 June

At the 100th IPRM meeting in Ergneti, the South Ossetian delegation raised the “provocative actions of the Georgian police, whose representatives illegally cross the border with the Republic of South Ossetia”.  Delegation leader Yegor Kochiev said Georgian police men frequently penetrate [the “border”] for 15-20 meters, moving back to Tbilisi administered territory when [South Ossetian/Russian] border patrol arrives. Also, the South Ossetian delegation reported 10 violation of the “border” were recorded since the previous IPRM meeting. All were detained, fined and expelled. 

The Georgian delegation raised once more the Gakheladze case, discussing the possibility of his family to visit him in Tskhinvali prison. Zaza Gakheladze was sentenced earlier this year to more than 12 years prison in South Ossetia, based on charges he shot at [Russian controlled] border guards while “violating the border”. He was shot himself. 

Zaza Gakheladze’s wife is not content with the way the Georgian government is handling this case. While speaking with Georgian representatives at the IPRM meeting, she announced civil action. If this has no effect, she said, she will walk across the boundary line of South Ossetia (immediately risking detention in Tskhinvali, like her husband). This threat led to a response from the South Ossetian Foreign Ministry a week later, calling the EUMM to prevent “another Georgian adventure”. The South Ossetian KGB meanwhile warned for “provocative actions” from Georgian activists who announced a protest on 23 June near the ABL.  

10 June 2021

A citizen of (Tbilisi controlled) Kirbali village, Geronti Papitashvili, was detained by Russian controlled forces for “crossing the border”, but was released the same day after hotline activation by Georgian authorities. Another villager who was with Papitashivili managed to run away in time and warn the village. Radio Tavisupleba/RFE-RL writes Geronti Papitashvili was taken from Georgian controlled territory, next to the church, and dragged to a “border sign” where he was photographed. Papitashvili was tending his cattle near the church and cemetery above the village, which is close to the ABL of South Ossetia. 

Church and cemetery on hill above Kirbali, site of illegal arrest 10 June 2021
Church and cemetery on hill above Kirbali, site of illegal arrest 10 June 2021 (photo: Giorgi Gogua / RFERL)
7 June 2021

A Georgian citizen was arrested on 7 June 2021 near Artsevi (South Ossetia) by Russian border guards as he “violated the state border of South Ossetia”. The South Ossetian authorities turned this arrest into a dirty propaganda show, claiming the arrested fled Georgia because of ethnic hatred by the authorities. Instead of giving political asylum, the South Ossetian side sent the Tbilisi resident back on 12 June, after recording a “video statement” by the detained. The ethnicity of the Georgian has not been published, a gap in the plot. This vile disinformation warfare and propaganda sets its own ironic trap: the South Ossetian authorities sends the “victim of ethnic hatred” back to the “evil Georgians”, lacking any compassion as it is preoccupied with accusing the European Court of Human Rights and the EUMM of closing their eyes for “Georgia’s discrimination”.  

14 May 2021

The KGB of South Ossetia stated on 14 May a detained Georgian citizen was transferred to the Georgian authorities. The 45 year old man was arrested on 10 January 2021 for “illegal crossing of the state border”. The Tskhinvali Court sentenced him to a one year conditional imprisonment. According to the Georgian State Security Service the EUMM was actively involved in negotiating the release via the IPRM meetings. 

2 May 2021

A drunk man who was driving from Prisi (South Ossetia) to Ditsi (Tbilisi controlled) drove through the closed gate in the fence along the ABL and entered Ditsi. After a little while he returned to South Ossetia, where Russian troops tried to arrest him. He did not stop, was then shot at, and finally arrested at his house in Prisi. Georgian police was too late at the scene in Ditsi. South Ossetian authorities confirmed the incident a week later in their own version.

Ditsi - an archive picture of the gate in the national road Sh173, and the ABL.
Ditsi – an archive picture of the gate in the national road Sh173.
2 May 2021

During orthodox Easter an incident took place in Khurvaleti. According to activists four people crossed the ABL from South Ossetia into Georgia controlled territory where they went to the cemetery, a tradition with Easter. They arrived with a Russian military UAZ van, while dressed as civilians. The Georgian police returned them to the other side of the ABL, without arrest.  According to local witnesses this repeated 2 or 3 times. Around 9 pm the EUMM visited the scene. The next morning, the Georgian State Security Service confirmed an incident took place, but refrained from providing details except denying the incident took place on Georgian controlled territory. 

Georgia imposed a general ban between 2 and 4 May on entering cemeteries due to the covid19 pandemic, to prevent mass visits during Easter. This topic was also discussed during the 99th IPRM meeting just days prior, in relation to potential boundary line issues. This cemetery belongs to Dzukata village which is closely tied to Khurvaleti. The two villages are separated from each other by barbed wire and fences. The line of control runs through the community area as can be seen in the maps below. 

Local Qartli media writes the men were shouting in Ossetian to the Khurvaleti villagers to “come up, let’s drink a glass”: 

“Our cemetery is located at the dividing line. On one side are buried the deceased who lived in big and small Khurvaleti, and on the other side are the Dzukantkareli. Those 3 boys were at Dzukantkari’s grave, they were shouting at us, Amid, let’s drink one glass, get up, Magi’s mother is crying. Our police thought they were cursing. I do not know from afar who they were, but in the village they are all our relatives and no one would say anything bad or call them.”

The South Ossetian side however took a different stance, it accused Georgian authorities of “a course of confrontation and provocation”. They turned the story around by saying the villagers were “provoked to violate the state border by insulting the citizens of the Republic of South Ossetia”. The KGB ignored in its statement that the cemetery in question is located on Tbilisi controlled territory, while suggesting it is within South Ossetian territory: 

“So, on the evening of 2 May, four residents of the settlement of [Tsinagari] traditionally held memorial events at Easter at the Ossetian cemetery near Dzukata. As the cemetery is located near the state border, after a while a police patrol drove up from Georgia, whose employees tried to provoke them to violate the state border by insulting the citizens of the Republic of South Ossetia. The citizens of South Ossetia were forced to interrupt the memorial events, leave the territory of the cemetery and report this situation to the law enforcement agencies of the Republic. After the arrival of the border officials of the Republic of South Ossetia, the Georgian police, realizing the impossibility of carrying out further provocative actions, left in the direction of the Georgian settlement of Khurvaleti.”

27 April 2021

As was reported on 14th May 2021, an unidentified citizen was arrested near Khelchua by Russian border guards while trying to “smuggle contraband cigarettes” to Georgian controlled territory with an alleged value of $2800. He was charged with “violating the border regime” as well. Article 200.2 of the Russian Criminal Code was applied. 

27 April 2021

At the 99th IPRM meeting in Ergneti discussionsfocused stabilization and normalization, “including ‘borderisation’ processes along the ABL, detention cases and the wider effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The co-facilitators from the EU and OSCE “took note of recent changes concerning freedom of movement and related pandemic measures”. They also called on participants to “improve the socio-economic situation stemming from the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing closure of the crossing points along the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL).” The continuig closure of crossing points fuels detentions along the ABL. 

The Georgian government requested the unconditional and immediate release by the Kremlin-backed authorities of illegally detained Georgian citizens, including Zaza Gakheladze who has been sentenced to 12 years of prison.

99th IPRM meeting in Ergneti on 27 April 2021. Photo: EUMM
99th IPRM meeting in Ergneti on 27 April 2021. Photo: EUMM
19 April 2021

Just like on 8 April, the South Ossetian KGB  accused Georgian authorities they “continued to urge residents of the [South Ossetian] Republic to illegally cross the state border”.  This time the propaganda spin was targeted against the Georgian offer South Ossetian citizens “in need of emergency medical care” can freely enter Tbilisi controlled territory without the otherwise mandatory five-day quarantine. The South Ossetian de facto authorities keep the crossing points closed for people without special permits.. Thus the Georgian offer is translated as an invitation to South Ossetian residents to “illegally cross the border that threatens the safety of residents of the Republic”, emphasizing the pandemic situation in Georgia. Once again, the South Ossetian authorities refuse (to facilitate) medical cooperation

14 April 2021 

According to the State Security Committee of South Ossetia 28 violators of the border regime were detained in March 2021 at various sections of the “state border of South Ossetia”, up from 15 in February. 27 were fined, 1 was expelled from South Ossetia without a fine. For the first quarter of 2021 the number was 93, down from 120 a year earlier.  Against three citizens a criminal case was opened, the rest was warned or fined. 

Also, the KGB warned with the opening of the farming season “citizens must submit documents in advance for obtaining appropriate permits.”. 

8 April 2021 

Tbilisi regime is provoking residents of South Ossetia to violate the state border in order to be vaccinated“, RES agency headlined on 8 April.  At the end of March the Georgian Minister of Health of Georgia announced the intention to vaccinate the population of South Ossetia. The KGB of South Ossetia however discourages its citizens to accept this Georgian offer “as the use of [AstraZeneca and Pfizer] has been suspended in many countries due to the development of accompanying severe complications”.  Also, the South Ossetian authorities keep the crossing points closed and thus warn against “illegally crossing the border”, and calls the Georgian invitation a provocation (to “unlawful” behavior)

1 April 2021

The Georgian citizen Ramaz Begeluri was “handed over to the Georgian authorities in accordance with the established procedure”, the KGB of South Ossetia announced. The resident of Georgian controlled Gugutiantkari village was detained on 3 March by a border guard near neighbouring Khelchua. Earlier he was sentenced to one year of conditional imprisonment after Tskhinvali District Court ruled him guilty of “committing a crime under Art. 322 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, the illegal crossing of the State Border”. 

7 March 2021

Reportedly, the Georgian police prevented on 7 March 2021 the arrest of a Georgian citizen by Russian controlled “occupation forces” near Khurvaleti which is close to the ABL of South Ossetia. According to RFE/RL Radio Tavisupleba the Georgian police detained “two armed members of the Russian occupation forces” who entered up to 500 metres deep into Tbilisi Administered Territory.  This alleged arrest was denied by the State Security Service of Georgia. A witness from the village described the situation to Radio Tavisupleba: 

“In one of the plots, our village tractor driver Ramaz Chalauri was plowing the land. When he saw the gunmen, he ran away and called the police, at which point the Russians fired and demanded that the fleeing tractor driver stop. They had come to kidnap this tractor driver, but our police acted quickly, besieged, disarmed and arrested them on the spot, they also confiscated the car they were driving.”

This comes just a few days after the 98th Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meeting in Ergneti where the Georgian authorities demanded the unconditional release of four Georgian citizens from South Ossetian prison. They have been sentenced by Tskhinvali court for “illegally crossing the border” with additional trumped up charges.  Genadi Bestaev was sentenced to 3 years in prison, Lasha Khetereli to 1 year, Ramaz Begeluri to 3 months in prison, and Zaza Gakheladze to 12 years and 6 months. At the 52nd round of the Geneva International Discussions (GID) on 25 and 26 March 2021 the same demands from Tbilisi were on the table

98th IPRM meeting in Ergneti on 5 March 2021. Photo: State Security Service of Georgia
98th IPRM meeting in Ergneti on 5 March 2021. Photo: State Security Service of Georgia
2 March 2021

On 2 March 2021, information was released by the Georgian State Secruity Service that Genadi Bestaev, a  Georgian citizen who has been detained in Tskhinvali since 29 November 2019 has been sent by South Ossetian court to 3 years prison. In January 2020 he was alegedly sentenced to 2 years, but this appeared to have been a pre-trial detention, as the Georgian RFE/RL service found out

Bestaev was originally arrested by Russian controlled forces near Khelchua / Zardiantkari. He has been  accused of “illegally crossing the border” and of the possession of drugs (nine grams marihuana). According to witness statements to RFE/RL Radiotavisupleba the drugs charges have been fabricated

The South Ossetian de facto authorities have stepped up their sentences of so called “border violators”, sometimes with extra and seemingly trumped up charges. In February 2021 a Georgian citizen was sentenced to more than 12 years prison.

27 Februari 2021

Near Bershueti a 60 year old Georgian citizen from Zerti was detained by Russian controlled forces. Allegedly he lost orientation while hunting and found himself on the other side of the Administrative Boundary Line on 27 February. He was released on 2 March 2021, without paying a fine. The de facto South Ossetian authorities established he “did not intentionally violate the border”.  

26 February 2021

A 29 year old Georgian citizen from Tbilisi was detained near Orchosani and expelled from South Ossetia on 26 February 2021,  without sanctions. The accompanying motivation reads like Ossetian propaganda, and an attempt to embarrass the Georgian Power in Unity activist group:

“It is established that the illegal act of the violator was prompted by the attack on him by Georgian collectors, as a result of the incident with which he received a knife wound in his hand. Having made a decision to hide from the persecutors, Amiran Mantashashvili moved towards the South Ossetian-Georgian state border, at the same time resorting to the help of the Power in Unity NGO, which deals with borderland issues. At the same time, the head of the said NGO movement D. Katsarava personally recommended the most convenient border crossing sections, so that Mantashashvili could safely reach the South Ossetian border guard detachment, receive qualified medical assistance and possible shelter in a timely manner”.

8 February 2021

On 8 February 2021 the State Security Service of Georgia stated ‘representatives of the occupation regime’ in South Ossetia ‘illegally arrested a Georgian citizen‘ near the Roki Tunnel, which connects South Ossetia with the Russian Federation. No further information about the alleged arrest was provided at the time of announcement, except that the usual procedures such as the hotline were triggered.

Radio Tavisupleba reported a 20 year old Georgian resident of Gori, Eric Drulev, was the detained person. He has relatives in Artsevi, in the “occupation zone”, near the ABL. It appears Drulev has relatives in Vladikavkaz, making it likely he tried to travel to his relatives in Artsevi via the Russian border crossing at the Roki Tunnel in lack of open checkpoints from Tbilisi Administered Territory. On 11 February he was released.

5 February 2021

Georgian citizen Zaza Gakheladze who was shot on 11 July 2020 (see below) by Russian controlled forces near the Administrative Boundary Line of South Ossetia has been sentenced to 12.5 years of prison on 5 February 2021 by South Ossetia’s de facto Supreme Court. Gakheladze was charged with and found guilty of two offences of the Russian Criminal Code: article 317 (encroachment on the life of a law enforcement officer) and article 322 (illegal crossing of the state border). This is yet another dramatic case of Russian human rights violations and aggression towards Georgia in the occupied zone. The conviction led to international outcry and domestic protests. In defence the South Ossetian de facto autorities released a propaganda statement justifying the verdict, warping reality and proportionality.

2 February 2021

According to the Georgian State Security Service, “representatives of the occupation regime” illegally arrested a Georgian citizen on 2 February near Gugutiantkari (Gori municipality). Reportdly he was transferred to Tskhinvali. The hotline was activated and the EU monitoring mission was informed about the incident. The arrested Georgian of 36 years has farmland around the ABL and has been taken before but was released after paying a fine. In August 2019 Russian controlled forces started to install new fences around the village, through yards and cutting corners so that property of Georgians ended up on the other side of the fence. The Disevi FSB base is nearby, leading to a lot of arrests. According to villagers the Russian forces set up traps to kidnap local residents, Radio Tavisupleba reported.

On 8 February the South Ossetian authorities ordered the arrested Georgian to 2 months “pre-trial detention”.  This lengthy “pre-trial detention” seems to be the new normal. Earlier most arrested for “illegally crossing the border” were released within a few days (or in some cases 2 weeks covid19 isolation) after paying a fine. 

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.

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