Foreign ministry "categorically condemns" shooting, arrest of citizen by occupation forces

Georgia's foreign and reconciliation ministries responded to the incident that took place early on Saturday near the occupation line in central Georgia. Photo: Nino Alavidze/, 12 Jul 2020 - 12:38, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia has "categorically condemned" the shooting and arrest of a Georgian citizen near the administrative line dividing the occupied Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) region from the Georgian-controlled territory on Saturday, demanding the injured person be returned by the de-facto authorities.

The foreign office released its response to the incident late on Saturday, condemning the "injuring and unlawful arrest" of the 33-year old Zaza Gakheladze, who was shot by occupation forces near the village of Kvemo Tchala and taken to the town of Akhalgori in the occupied region.

In its statement the ministry said the incident represented an example of a "flagrant violation" of the August 12, 2008 ceasefire deal between Russia and Georgia that followed the five-day armed conflict centred around the Tskhinvali region, and of calls by the United Nations Secretary General for a global ceasefire in the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statement also demanded an immediate return of Gakheladze to the Georgian side and urged Russia to ensure unlimited access to international humanitarian and human rights organisations to the occupied territories.

Lia Gigauri, the Acting Minister of Reconciliation and Civic Equality of Georgia, also responded to the incident on Saturday, telling local media the life of Gakheladze, undergoing treatment in an Akhalgori hospital, was not under threat following the shooting. Gigauri also said her ministry was "using all means" to ensure the Georgian citizen was freed by the de-facto authorities.

Resident of central Georgia's Kaspi Municipality village of Kvemo Tchala, Gakheladze was shot and then arrested around 9:30am local time on Saturday, with the de-facto Security Committee of South Ossetia releasing the information to family later.

The occupation authorities alleged Gakheladze had crossed the "state border" and opened fire on "border protection staff" after an appearance of the latter on the scene. The "committee" said the Georgian citizen had been injured in return fire from the "border" patrols.

Relatives of the citizen have said Gakheladze had been gathering mushrooms near the occupation line when he was arrested and taken to Akhalgori.