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EU observers concerned about detentions

By Temuri Kiguradze
Wednesday, October 28
The EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) has expressed its concern over the detention of sixteen Georgians from the village of Gremiskhevi by Russian border guards on October 25.

EUMM underlined that the farmers were arrested near the administrative border with the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia whilst cutting firewood to prepare for winter. It also regretted that the meeting between the Georgian and separatist authorities dedicated to discussing this incident had not been conducted.

“A meeting onsite between the GEO and SO de facto authorities, which was scheduled at short notice and which EUMM was due to attend, did not take place. Therefore, EUMM urges all parties to discuss and settle the matter within the framework of the IPRM (Incident Prevention Mechanism),” said the mission in its statement published on October 27.

It also underlined that “the arrest of the 16 residents of Gremiskhevi seriously affects the daily life of this village. At the same time, the incident reflects the wider problem of activities along the ABL (Administrative Boundary Line) which are likely to increase due to preparations for the winter season. EUMM believes the IPRM is the appropriate forum in which to discuss this matter in order to achieve a sustainable solution.”

Meanwhile Georgian officials have appealed for international involvement in this situation. Head of the Georgian Parliament’s Committee on the Restoration of Territorial Integrity Shota Malashkhia underlined that only “tight contacts” with international organisations may prevent the repeat of such incidents in future. Speaking to Georgian journalists on Tuesday, Malashkhia noted that the detention of sixteen Georgians near the South Ossetian administrative border is a sign of the “critical situation” in Russia. “The more difficult Russia’s international position becomes, the more provocative are its actions. Russia bears the full responsibility for all actions conducted on the territory occupied by its troops,” stated Malashkhia.

Another Georgian MP, opposition member Paata Davitaia, appealed to the Georgian Government to create a “special plan for the protection of Georgian citizens.” “The detention of Georgian citizens is a violation of the Criminal Code of Georgia because our citizens have the right of free movement within Georgia’s territory. We must inform international organisations about this issue, however I want to underline that the Georgian State itself must develop a special plan for the protection of Georgian citizens,” said Davitaia.

The fate of the sixteen Georgian farmers is still unclear. The separatist authorities of South Ossetia have accused them of “violating the South Ossetian border” and “illegally cutting firewood.” They announced that all sixteen were being held in the town of Akhalgori and “being questioned” by the region’s de facto Prosecutor’s Office.