Sign warning about the de facto border. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–South Ossetia on Tuesday released one of two Georgians who were detained for crossing the disputed border.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Vasil Khidasheli and Alexandre Shiukashvili were detained on December 20 close to the village Tsitelubani, near Gori, for ‘illegally crossing the border’.

Khidasheli has now been released, while the ministry negotiates for Shiukashvili’s release too.

According to the law enforcement bodies in South Ossetia, there have been 197 cases in the last five months of Georgian citizens ‘illegally crossing the border’. 237 250 rubles (more than USD 4,000) has been paid in fines.

The breakaway region’s border service two weeks ago published revised figures, according to which 115 ‘citizens of South Ossetia’, 23 Russian citizens, 46 Georgian citizens and 13 citizens of other states have ‘violated’ the de facto border.

DF Watch tried to get information from the Georgian Interior Ministry about how many Georgian citizens have been detained by Russian border guards for ‘illegally crossing the border’ to South Ossetia, but the ministry asked us to send an official letter. We are currently awaiting a response.

Most of the detainees have to pay a fine of about USD 60. Many people are detained in spring when it is season for collecting bladdernut (jonjoli). Tens of Georgians were detained this year while they were out harvesting the plant which is found in the wild here and is used for cooking.