De facto authorities of Georgia’s Russian-controlled Tskhinvali region say that the European Union Monitoring mission (EUMM) monitors were held yesterday as they “illegally crossed the border in the village of Tsnelisi (Kareli Municipality, under the Russian control),” adding that the action by the EUMM was “provocative.”
The statement made by the de facto government official Igor Kochiev for REC news agency contradicts the account of the EUMM which says that their monitors were “briefly held on October 24 on the Tbilisi-administered territory [at the village of Chorchana, Khashuri municipality].”
The EUMM mission head to Georgia Erik Hoeg tweeted:
In a troubling incident today #EUMM monitors were briefly held by armed South Ossetian security actors at ABL. mission has issued a press release - case will also— Erik Hoeg (@erik_hoeg) October 24, 2019
be discussed at planned IPRM tech. meeting Friday 25/10.https://t.co/QUrMm4Aw6G
Kochiev says that the action of the EUMM monitors ahead of the 6th Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism Meeting (IPRM) scheduled later today and which will seek to ease tension at the villages of Chorchana and Tsnelisi, was “provocative.”
The EUMM says that their patrols were briefly held by armed Tskhinvali (South Ossetian) security agents, while conducting a patrol in the Chorchana-Tsnelisi area, on the Tbilisi controlled territory.
The hotline was activated from Tskhinvali shortly after these developments,” the EUMM said.
Kochiev says that with the use of the hot line they told the mission “that such steps are unacceptable, further straining the situation” on the ground.
The EUMM says that they are “deeply concerned about cases” in which armed security actors prevent EUMM Monitors from conducting their daily activities in accordance with the mandate.
Before the incident took place Hoeg tweeted:
Today EU member states gave final approval to increase number of #EUMM monitors by 20 - bringing our total strength to 340 staff. Reinforcement will allow #EUMM to increase our monitoring at South Ossetian ABL, including in the Chorchana-Tsnelisi area where we are present 24/7. pic.twitter.com/mmAy8fgng6— Erik Hoeg (@erik_hoeg) October 24, 2019
The mission says that the incident will be discussed at today’s IPRM meeting.
Georgian Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani has stated that the detention of the EUMM monitors was “unprecedented and alarming,” which “we strongly condemn.”
The Georgian Foreign Ministry says that the illegal detention of the EUMM monitors was “an action against peace and security on the ground.”
The situation became tense on the ground at the end of August when Russian-occupied Tskhinvali protested the opening of an ordinary police post in the village of Chorchana, Khashuri municipality, on Tbilisi administered territory, citing ‘security threats to locals.’
After Tbilisi refused to remove the post the occupying forces constructed two new “police posts” on Tbilisi-administered territory, near the village of Tsnelisi, Kareli municipality [bordering Chorchana] and closed the so-called border with Akhalgori district.
Two crossing points at Tskhinvali occupation line - Odzisi and Sinaguri - have been closed since September 4, creating severe humanitarian situation on the ground.
The EUMM is the only international mission in Georgia which is able to monitor the situation at the occupation lines with Georgia’s two occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali.
They are still not allowed [by Russia and de facto authorities] to enter the regions.