TBILISI, DFWatch–South Ossetia’s KGB has published data which reveals that more people have been punished for trying to leave the breakaway region than for crossing into the territory.
As DFWatch reported early on, people living near the de facto border are frequently being detained by the Russian border force that patrols the perimeter around the breakaway region, but the new figures put out by Tskhinvali’s KGB makes for an interesting comparison.
The KGB’s figures only cover the months April and May, in which there were 45 and 35 persons punished trying to leave the territory, respectively. This is clearly more than the number of people detained for entering: The same two months, 11 Georgians were detained for illegal border crossing in April and seven in May, according to Georgia’s State Security Service (SUS).
In fact, the number of Ossetians detained for trying to leave South Ossetia only in those two months surpassed the number of Georgians detained for crossing into the breakaway region in the last six months – 57.
In addition to higher numbers, the reasons Russian border forces detained people for crossing was also clearly different for those who entered and those who left. Whereas those detained for entering were typically local Georgians who inadvertently wandered across a green border not clearly demarcated while tending to cattle, sometimes while standing on their own property, those detained in the other direction were mostly Ossetians on their way into Georgia proper in order to do petty trade or to smuggle goods or seek medical treatment, which is free of charge for all residents of the South Ossetia region.
Although they can legally cross the border at the Larsi crossing, many South Ossetians opt for illegal routes in order to save time and money. As of smugglers, they try to bypass official checkpoints.
As reported many times by DFWatch, the de facto border between South Ossetia and Georgia proper is creating difficulties for the population living in the area, who are often detained by soldiers from Russia’s FSB border force and taken to Tskhinvali, where they are temporarily jailed and eventually fined by the breakaway region’s court.
Among the 57 Georgians detained during the last six months for entering the breakaway region, were two Georgian border guards, one 94 year old man, a 16 year old boy and a priest.
According to SSS, six Georgian nationals were detained in January, six in February, five in March, 11 in April, seven in May, and 22 in June.
After being detained by Russian border forces from the security police FSB, detainees are brought to a prison in Tskhinvali, and forced to sign a document acknowledging that they have ‘violated South Ossetia border’. Then they are released after paying a fine of 2,000 Russian rubles (about USD 32).
According to the newly released figures from Tskhinvali’s KGB, those detained fro trying to leave the territory were subject to administrative measures; some of them were fined, while others received only a warning.