On 17-18 August the arrest and detention of eight Georgians by Russian led “border guards” took place near the Administrative Boundary Line on two locations: seven at a church near Adzvistavi and one person near Akhalubani. Annually hundreds of Georgians get arrested in a similar fashion, but the high number of arrested people makes this a remarkable case.
All eight persons have been 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”.
The Foreign Ministry of Georgia stated 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 seven (young) Georgian citizens were visiting a church in the wooded hills just outside of Adzvi village to lit some 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 hot line 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 at St George church have been transferred by South Ossetian authorities to the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs. The cars will be forensically investigated .
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:
On August 20 the eight Georgians arrested and detained earlier were released by the de facto Tskhinvali authorities. After paying a fine they were handed over to Georgian authorities and returned to their homes. The identity of the eight was also reported: Zurab Gerkeuli, Ilia Mighrijanashvili, Koba Bardiashvili, Lasha Gerkeuli, Ilia Baindurashvili, Giorgi Naskidashvili, Otar Eliauri and Soso Dvalishvili.
More on the arrest and detention of Georgians near the Administrative Boundary line of South Ossetia can be found here.