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De facto South Ossetian authorities claim they have detained several Georgian citizens

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, March 23
Russian border police deployed at the administrative border with the Tskhinvali region detained four persons on charges of illegally crossing the 'border' on March 21, information agency Osinform has reported.

According to the de facto South Ossetian law enforcers two of the detainees – a man resident in the de facto South Ossetian village of Muguti and a female citizen of Georgia were detained in the village of Muguti, in the Znauri region. Two other persons, both female had been detained earlier that morning in an area of that region adjacent to the administrative border, according to the de facto authorities. Osinform reported that these detainees were travelling by car from de facto South Ossetia to Georgia. Two women and a one year-old child were also in the car, according to Russian border police officers.

One of the women detained in Znauri is a citizen of Georgia and the other a resident of the village of Zivleti in de facto South Ossetia. They had no identity documents with them, according to the Russian border police officials. They were taken to the border service of the de facto South Ossetian KGB, Osinform reported.

The previous day the Russian border police had detained several people at the administrative border on charges of illegal “border” crossing. A “citizen” of South Ossetia and a citizen of Georgia were detained in the village of Koleti, Znauri region, news agency RIA Novosti reported on Saturday. “They were trying to cross into Georgia through the South Ossetian border,” RIA Novosti quoted Russian border officials as saying. Two other persons were also detained on illegal “border” crossing charges at the village of Tsinagari, in the Akhalgori region, earlier on Saturday. “They did not have any documents with them. The detainees stated that they are citizens of Georgia,” the Press Service of the Russian Border Police Department in de facto South Ossetia told RIA Novosti. De facto South Ossetian law enforcers have launched an investigation into this case, Ossetian news agencies reported.

The Georgian authorities have denied that Georgian citizens are among those detained in the de facto Republic. Head of the Shida Kartli Regional Department of the Georgian Interior Ministry Vladimer Jugheli said that the detainees are allegedly members of South Ossetian opposition politicians' families. “As soon as we received information about the alleged detention of Georgian citizens by the Ossetian separatists our officers started checking all villages in the region, to find out if anyone was missing or anyone had crossed into Georgia’s occupied territory recently,” Jugheli said. “However we saw no evidence of this. At the same time the separatists and the so-called Russian border guards told me that all the detainees are citizens of so-called South Ossetia,” he noted, adding that according to the Russian officers, the detainees are family members of South Ossetian politicians opposed to de facto leader Eduard Kokoity.

Jugheli suggested that the recent detentions coincide with a recent attempt by South Ossetians to hold a protest rally in Tskhinvali. “Apparently the detainees are relatives of Kokoity’s opponents. The de facto authorities could not think of any other reason than illegal border crossing for detaining them. By these methods the Tskhinvali regime is trying to intimidate its opposition in order to make them change their mind about holding protest rallies,” Jugheli stated.

An opposition rally planned for March 20-21 in Tskhinvali was cancelled as the de facto authorities refused to give sanction to hold it. The initiators of the rally claim the refusal was “ungrounded”. One of them, Grigory Dzasokhov, said that the rally will be held “some time later anyway.” The main demands of the opposition in Tskhinvali are that houses damaged during the August 2008 conflict should be restored and human rights defended.