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State Ministers for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, OSCE SG, US Ambassador meet Zaza Gakheladze’s family.

By Khatia Bzhalava
Tuesday, June 15
The OSCE Secretary General, Helga Maria Schmid, US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan, and the State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Tea Akhvlediani arrived in the village of Tsitsagiaantkari yesterday near the Russian-controlled Tskhinvali region of Georgia, where they met with the family of Zaza Gakheladze, a Georgian citizen who was illegally sentenced to 12 years in prison by the de facto Supreme Court of the Russian-occupied Tskhinvali region on February 5.

Family members of Gakheladze were informed of the measures that are being taken to free him from illegal detention. According to the State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, this issue will be raised again within the framework of the 100th meeting of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM scheduled for today.

US Ambassador to Georgia stressed that Gakheladze’s case is “a heartbreaking example of the role that Russia plays here in Georgia.” Degnan affirmed America's unwavering support for Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty. According to her, Russia must fulfil the 2008 agreement, withdraw the troops and renounce the recognition of the so-called independence of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali.

Gakheladze’s mother Nana Bunturi told the journalists that their only demand is his release. She stressed that his son’s birthday is on June 23 and if Gakheladze is not released by then, they would “either cross into the occupation line or will take other actions.” According to Bunturi, if his son is not released, they will launch protests.

ON June 6-10, Toivo Klaar, the European Union Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia (EUSR) visited Tskhinvali and Sokhumi. During the meeting with Georgian Security Service Chief Grigol Liluashvili, the sides particularly underscored the urgency of releasing the illegally detained Georgian citizens Zaza Gakheladze, Lasha Khetereli, Genadi Bestaev, and Irakli Bebua from custody. While discussing the situation along the occupation line, the parties stressed the need to increase the potential of the existing negotiation formats of Geneva International Discussions (GID) and Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM).

Gakheladze was shot and illegally detained by Russian-controlled occupation forces in July 2020. On February 5, 2021, he was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison by the de facto Supreme Court of the Russian-occupied Tskhinvali region. The court found him guilty of “illegally crossing the border and attempted murder” of a so-called border guard.

Since February, the international community has been calling for the immediate release of Gakheladze and urging Russia to fulfill its obligation under the 2008 ceasefire agreement.