Four Georgian victims of Babushera tragedy identified

The aircraft crashed on the runway, killing 108 of the 132 people on board. The bodies were buried without being identified., 06 Dec 2014 - 17:02, Tbilisi,Georgia

Four bodies unearthed at Babushera’s mass grave in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia region have been identified, enabling a Georgian woman who has dressed in black for the past 21 years to finally give her loved ones a proper burial.

Today, Bela Zaldastanishvili - whose world shattered on September 22, 1993 when she lost her two sons and both twin brothers in a plane crash – was informed that authorities had managed to identify the bodies of her deceased family members as a result of a DNA analysis.

Bela Zaldastanishvili lost two sons and two brothers in the plane crash; Photo by N. Alavidze /

The bodies will soon be returned to the family.

On December 9, the soldiers who died during accomplishing a military mission will lay in state at the country’s main cathedral, the Holy Trinity Cathedral, where Georgians will be able to pay their respects. After this the bodies will be reburied at the Doghomi Brother’s Cemetery in Tbilisi.

On September 22, 1993, a plane flying from Tbilisi to Sokhumi – capital city of Abkhazia - was shot down while attempting to land at Babushera Airport. The aircraft crashed on the runway, killing 108 of the 132 people on board.

See a multimedia story about the victims and survivors of the tragedy here.

The tragic crash came four days before the 13-month war in Abkhazia ended.

The flight was carrying soldiers and doctors who were on a humanitarian mission. Those on board were planning to help civilians in Sokhumi and take the wounded back to Tbilisi.

Zaldastanishvili’s two sons and two brothers were on board that plane. All four of them – Zura (23), Temuri (25), Nukri (30) and Vasiko (30) - died.

A photo on a wall at Zaldastanishvili's home; Photo by N. Alavidze /

The families of those killed in the plane crash could not retrieve the bodies of their loved ones because of the unrest in the area. The scale of the damage meant it was impossible to identify the bodies following the crash without DNA testing.

After the plane crash the war continued in Sokhumi but it was urgent to bury the bodies. Subsequently, those who died were buried in a mass grave without being formally identified.

Exactly 21 years on from the Babushera tragedy, the bodies of all Georgians who died in the crash were finally returned home.

Authorities began to excavate the graves at Babushera Cemetery in May 2014 following lengthy negotiations between Georgia and Abkhazia.

International humanitarian aid group Red Cross helped facilitate cooperation between de-facto Abkhaz authorities and Georgian officials. The graves of the unknown victims were opened and DNA samples were taken from all the bodies. The samples were then sent to Zagreb, Croatia, to be analysed. Some DNA testing is still underway.

Once all the remains are identified, the bodies will be returned to their families and reburied in Georgia. The victims will finally be laid to rest in peace.