The situation along the administrative boundary line of Georgia's breakaway region of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) today became tense after seven armed people in military uniform removed a Georgian flag that had been raised by representatives of Georgian media two days ago instead of the demarcation banner installed by the Russian forces on July 10.
Local and foreign journalists were forbidden to move closer to the incident site, stated representative of the so-called Border Control Department of South Ossetia Robert Gazaev.
Journalist John Vandiver from daily newspaper Stars and Stripes, based in Washington and published for the US military, DOD civilians, contractors and their families, witnessed the case together with their Georgian colleges. In his article Vandiver described all details of the incident. In a photo gallery published today readers can clearly see armed men come face-to-face with Georgian police.
Here is the state border of South Ossetia and if you abstain from relocating, we will take proper measures,” Gazaev told the journalists after removing the Georgian flag from the site.
Robert Gasaev, right, who identified himself as deputy chief of the South Ossetian Border control, surrounded by armed men who accompanied him, warned Georgian journalists to stay back after he removed a Georgian flag from what he said was South Ossetian territory, near Khurvaleti, Georgia, Thursday, July 16, 2015.
Photo by Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes.
Later reporters were advised by Georgian police to leave the conflict zone for safety reasons.
Georgia’s Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili assessed the situation at the occupation line as "very hard and very concerning” after a Government meeting in Tbilisi.
"The possibility of provocation is very high in case of any wrong step… It is not the time for emotions,” she said while commenting on the situation to the Georgian Public Broadcaster.
From the north Georgia has only one border; a border with Russia. What we are discussing now, it is not even the ‘so-called border’ it is the occupation line. This occupation line is marked in some parts with barbed wire, in some parts it exists virtually in the mind of the side which controls the situation.”
Russian border guards installed cameras and they permanently control the so-called border line. April 2015. Photo by Nino Alavidze/Agenda.ge
Russian military exercises
This evening the Ministry of Foreign Affairs once again called on the international community to "adequately react” to the recent developments in the region following the Russian army launching large-scale military exercises at the "Southern Military District, as well as in Georgia's occupied Tskhinvali region” on June 15.
"More than 1,500 artillery troops are taking part in the exercises involving the use of modern weapons such as the 152-mm towed howitzer pieces: Akatsiya, Msta-Ð¡, Msta-B; Grad, Tornado-G and Uragan multiple launch rocket systems; Shturm-C anti-tank guided missile system; Sani and Podnos Mortars. A total of 300 air defence missile systems are used in the exercises,” reads the statement published this evening on the official web site of Georgia’s Foreign Ministry.
"This provocative act of the Russian Federation represents an infringement of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and a gross violation of the Georgian Constitution, norms and principles of international law, international commitments undertaken by Russia including under the Ceasefire Agreement of 12 August 2008, and poses a threat to peace and security in the region.”
PM: We would avoid any kind of provocation
Georgia's Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili underlined that the policy of the Georgian Government in this direction will be safe, calm and constructive but very principal to avoid any kind of provocation.
"This is our principal approach, which will never be changed. We would not agree to compromise on the issues connected with our Abkhazia and Ossetia. We proved in the past three years that we really want to reconcile with our Abkhazian and Ossetian brothers and our policy is aimed to this,” stated Garibashvili during the Government meeting in Tbilisi.
We did not make public several positive steps made in reconciliation direction. But this is the process and it needs time. It is hard heritage we found ourselves in three years ago and [now] we are managing it”.
South Ossetian official: British Petroleum should pay for safety service and transit
Meanwhile a so-called South Ossetian high official stated international oil and gas giant British Petroleum (BP) should pay for the transit and safety service of the Baku–Supsa pipeline, part of which is now under Russian control in the breakaway Tskinvali region (South Ossetia).
The pipeline was on Georgian territory but now a 1.6 kilometre stretch of the pipeline appeared to be in occupied land after Russian occupational forces installed so-called border signs in Georgian villages on July 10.
"There were no incidents on the pipeline until now but in such cases there is a rule that the operator company should pay for the transit and safe service of its objects,” stated vice Speaker of the de facto South Ossetian Parliament Dmitry Tasoev to Russian news agency Sputnik today.
If BP complied, South Ossetia was ready to provide security to their controlled part of the important pipeline, underlined the de facto MP in his statement.
Extraordinary IPRM meeting in Ergneti is scheduled for Monday
The recent developments in the region will be discussed at an emergency meeting in Ergneti under the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) on Monday.
The European Union’s Monitoring mission (EUMM) in Georgia was mobilised at the site during the day and it will continue to monitor activities at the occupation line.
Local residents said they were now unable to reach their pastures and gardens and would probably be forced to sell all their cattle as about 70 percent (about 10 hectares) of their fields were now under Russian and de facto South Ossetian control.
Russia’s illegal actions have already been condemned by the international community, including Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), European Union (EU), Lithuania, Latvia, the United States (US) and Ukraine.