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Patriarchate Says Tatunashvili’s Body Will be Handed over Today

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, March 8
(TBILISI)--The Patriarchate of Georgia claims that the body of Archil Tatunashvili, a 35-year-old Georgian soldier who died in unclear circumstances in the occupied Tskhinvali region on February 23, will be handed over to his family for burial today.

The Patriarchate made the statement based on the letter of the Russian Patriarch Kirill to his Georgian counterpart; as the letter requested him help over the transfer.

"In response to a letter sent by you [by Georgian Patriarch Ilia II] on March 2, in which you requested assistance in the transfer of Archil Tatunashvili’s body to the Georgian side, I would like to inform you that we took all necessary steps. The local authorities convinced us that they are ready to hand over the body to the family in the nearest time, as soon as they get the results of forensic examination,” the Patriarchate reported.

“Tatunashvili's body is planned to be transferred to the Georgian side through the mediation of the International Committee of the Red Cross," reads Patriarch Kirill's letter published on the Georgian Patriarchate’s website.

De facto President of Tskhinvali Anatoly Bibilov, however, claims that the occupied region requires time to appropriately study the issue, as the case “has been politicized much” by the government of Georgia.

“Carrying out of autopsy in Georgia needs at least one month. Nearly the same time is needed in European countries. You should let us do all procedures in line with law. If we hand over the body without relevant procedures, Tskhinvali may face problems,” Bibilov told the co-chairs of the Geneva International Talks, discussing Georgian conflict issues.

The co-chairs of the Geneva discussions have expressed their concern over the death.

Representatives of the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said everything is being done to return Tatunashvili’s body to his family.

Tatunashvili and two other Georgian citizens were detained by occupation forces on February 22 in Akhalgori area, on territory currently controlled by Russians, allegedly for Tatunashvili’s participation in the Russia-Georgia 2008 war.

Tskhinvali media announced the death of Tatunashvili on February 23, and stated that the latter had an incident with detention facility staff and fell down a flight of stairs.

However, the de-facto security service of Tskhinvali claims the man died from heart failure. Tskhinvali refuses to hand over the body until Russian experts provide the outcome of an autopsy.

Two others detained with Tatunashvili have been released from detention but they cannot leave the occupied territory due to the fact that their identification documents have been confiscated.