TBILISI, DFWatch–The two armed Russian service members advanced 500 meters into territory controlled by Georgia and fired warning shots in an attempt to seize a local resident in the village Khurvaleti, about 50km northwest of Tbilisi, an eyewitness told Radio Tavisupleba.
Khurvaleti is located at the southern tip of the breakaway region South Ossetia, whose de facto border is guarded by Russian FSB border guards.
The Georgian language version of Radio Free Europe quotes a local eyewitness who claims that Georgian law enforcers detained the two armed Russian border guards near the occupation line in the village of Khurvaleti, in Gori Municipality.
Radio Tavisupleba’s source described the two Russian border guards advancing about 500 meters into territory controlled by the Georgian government, where Georgian police allegedly arrested the two armed Russian service members.
“Ramaz Chalauri was driving a tractor, plowing one of the fields. When he saw the armed men, he ran away and called the police. This was when the Russians fired and demanded that the tractor driver stop. They had come to kidnap the tractor driver, but our police acted quickly, surrounded, disarmed and arrested them on the spot, they also confiscated the car they were driving,” the local eyewitness said, as quoted by Radio Tavisupleba.
The South Ossetian side has installed observation posts on a ridge surrounding Khurvaleti, used for monitoring the movement of residents.
The official account of the incident, as quoted by the same website, is that the two Russians were briefly detained but soon left in their vehicle.
The incident is confirmed by the website Civil.ge, which also asked the State Security Service (SSS) about what happened, but SSS did not confirm that two Russian border guards were detained by Georgian law enforcement officers. However, SSS confirmed that on March 7, Georgian police prevented Russian service members from detaining a Georgian citizen near the village Khurvaleti.
Radio Tavisupleba reports that the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) confirmed that a special hotline between the sides was activated on 7 March. The hotline was established as part of an incident prevention and response mechanism (IPRM) established after the 2008 war to defuse situations in the conflict zone.
The EU- and OSCE-hosted IPRM meetings are held regularly at Ergneti, a village on the delineation line a few kilometers from Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway republic. Topics usually include solving incidents and submitting requests for the release people detained by Tskhinvali for allegedly violating the border. The last IPRM meeting was held on 5 March, two days before the incident in Khurvaleti.