South Ossetia Sunday released three Georgians who were charged of illegally crossing the so-called state border, Kavkaz Uzel reported.
The three Georgian citizens Gaioz Gulitashvili, Murad Macharashvili and Vaja Sauri were arrested near the villages Perevi and Medjvriskhevi north west of Tskhinvali while out working on their fields on October, 5. They had been detained for three days.
“You have just crossed the border, they told me before arresting me,” one of the released told Georgia’s public broadcaster, First Channel.
“I had not crossed the border, I told them. It’s my territory, my cornfield. We’ll find out it later, they told me and took me.”
After being handed over to Georgian law enforcers, the three were interrogated and then allowed to return home.
The same day as they were detained, the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested the so-called South Ossetian authorities to immediately release the three.
In a statement about this latest incident, Georgia and the United States expressed “concern over the illegal detention of so-called border violations by residents adjacent to the administrative border with the Tskhinvali region areas,” the online news agency reports.
On 19 September five Georgian citizens were arrested for violating the border of South Ossetia, Kavkaz Uzel reported. The detainees explained to border guards that they had crossed the border to buy medicines, and to visit relatives in hospitals and go to the Znaur region of South Ossetia.
After the Russo-Georgian war in August 2008, Russia imposed a new de facto border. This has led to a number of incidents where locals have been detained for illegal border crossing while appearantly just going about their daily life unaware of where exactly the border is.
The most serious incident took place in October 2009, when 16 villagers from Gremiskhevi near Dusheti were collectively detained and taken to Tskhinvali while collecting firewood. Four days later however they were released.
In a similar fashion, Georgia has detained residents of the Tskhinvali region crossing the opposite direction, though such incidents have been fewer.
One of the aims of the EU’s observers to Georgia, EUMM, is to handle exactly such incidents. The EUMM was set up after the 2008 war an currently constitute the only outside observers who are allowed to work on both sides and monitor what is happening. The observers oversee what’s called an incident prevention mechanism, where military officials from both sides sit down at the actual border. One of the aims of these meetings is try to solve disputes arising out of border incidents. This type of meetings take place both at the South Ossetian and Abkhazian border.