South Ossetia ABL: risk of arrest by Russian border guards

[2019 archive] Arrests 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 is the archived 2019 page, click here for the current running year

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16 December 2019

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 2019

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 2019

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 2019

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 2019

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 2019

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 2019

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 2019

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 2019 (update of 17-18 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.

20 August 2019

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 2019

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:

11 May 2019

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 2019

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 2019

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 2019

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 2019

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 2019

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 2019

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.

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