De facto Tskhinvali releases 4 kidnapped Georgians after paying fine

Barbed wire fence installed by Russian border guards at the occupation line in Georgia. Photo by N. Alavidze/, 21 May 2016 - 14:15, Tbilisi,Georgia

Four Georgian citizens kidnapped by Russian-controlled border guards near the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) with de facto Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) have been released after they paid a fine.

De facto Tskhinvali Court accused the four men of "illegal border crossing” on May 19 and told them to pay 2,000 Russian rubles (65 GEL) each before they were released this morning.

The men said they were first questioned at the Znauri pre-detention centre in Tskhinvali region before being taken to Tskhinvali town, where they were found guilty by the Court.

A witness of the kidnapping said the men were working on their own beehives in Dzirula village when they were approached and kidnapped by armed people.

De facto Tskhinvali authorities said the men were arrested within the breakaway territory but the village where the incident occurred was located about eight kilometres from the ABL, on Georgian-controlled territory.

Witness Valeri Chkhitunidze told Georgia’s Public Broadcaster he was among the group when they were approached by several armed men.

He said the only reason why the attackers did not kidnap him too was because of his age, as it would have been impossible for him to walk several kilometres to the ABL.

Chkhitunidze noted the armed guards spoke a little Georgian, Russian and Ossetian.

This month there have been several cases of detention of Georgian citizens by Russia-controlled border guards near the ABL with Tskhinvali (South Ossetia).

On May 9 armed guards detained nine Georgian residents from Korbouli village and accused them of illegally crossing the so-called border.

Earlier, on May 5 border guards detained two Georgian men near Dvani and Chvirnisi villages, which are located near the breakaway zone in Georgia’s Kareli municipality. These two men were also accused of illegally crossing the so-called border.