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The Weekly Tripwire – Issue 28


Archil Tatunashvili. Photo: facebook.com/achiko.tatunashvili.58

February 19-25

A Citizen Dies in Tskhinvali Custody – Europe reacts to Tatunashvili’s death – Amnesty International Human Rights Report – Deputy Commander of the Russian Southern Military District visits Tskhinvali – Russian proxies meet in Tskhinvali – Putin Decorates 2008 War Pilot – battle readiness check in Abkhazia – Court member controversy continues.

A Citizen Dies in Tskhinvali Custody: Georgian citizen Archil Tatunashvili died in the custody of the Russian-backed Tskhinvali security service, called locally “the KGB.” A native of the Russian-occupied Akhalgori Municipality, Tatunashvili used to visit his home region periodically, crossing from the territory administered by Tbilisi. On February 22, he was detained in Akhalgori by Tskhinvali KGB, which took him to Tskhinvali, were he died by the early hours of February 23. Tskhinvali KGB claims it detained him on accusations of “genocide” and “ties with Georgian security agencies,” saying that during his transfer to a detention cell after being questioned, Tatunashvili fought back and “sustained injuries, was knocked down and rolled down the stairs,” after which he was taken to hospital, where he died “after two hours.” Tskhinvali KGB also claims that “according to the preliminary results of the autopsy of the body of Tatunashvili, the cause of death was acute heart failure.” Archil Tatunashvili was 35 years old.

Tbilisi reacted to the killing furiously, with the Foreign Ministry condemning “criminal actions of the occupation regime,” and laying the responsibility for Tatunashvili’s death on the Russian Federation, as the power in control of the Georgian territories it has under the occupation. The Ministry also said the incident made clear “the urgent necessity to create on the ground international mechanisms for human rights and security.” Georgian President, Prime Minister and other officials, as well as opposition politicians made their own statements of condemnation in response to Tatunashvili’s killing.

Western Voices – Europe reacts to Tatunashvili’s death:
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini expressed “grave concern” due to the death of Archil Tattunashvili. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius referred to it “the ugly face of oppressive regime in Russia’s occupied South Ossetia,” and called for the establishment of “international human rights and security mechanisms on the ground.” Meanwhile, the EUMM called for a “full, thorough and transparent examinations” into the death of Archil Tatunashvili.

Western Voices – Amnesty International Report: The Georgia section of Amnesty’s latest human rights report touches upon the situation in the country’s Russian-occupied regions, saying that “Russian forces and de facto authorities” in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia “continued to restrict movement across the de facto border, briefly detaining and fining dozens of people for “illegal” border crossing.” The report states that “the increased fencing along the administrative boundary lines continued to adversely affect the rights of local residents, including the rights to work, food and an adequate standard of living, owing the loss of access to their orchards, pasture and farm land.”

Russia’s Network – Military Commander visits Tskhinvali: Deputy Commander of the Russian Southern Military District Alexander Romanchuk visited Tskhinvali and met with the local Russian-backed leader Anatoly Bibilov. The latter specifically stressed his “close relationship with the Russian 4th Military Base,” which is stationed in Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, as well as with “the command staff of the 58th Army.” Bibilov also took part in the 4th Military Base’s celebration of the Russian (previously Red) Army Day on February 23.

Russia’s Network – Russian proxies meet in Tskhinvali: Military delegations from both Donetsk “people’s republic” and Abkhazia visited Tskhinvali Region on February 21. They met with Bibilov, who asked his guests from Donetsk to give his regards to Donetsk Russian-backed leader Alexander Zakharchenko, who, said Bibilov, “took direct part in the liberation of Donbass from the fascist elements.” Donetsk and Tskhinvali agreed they would send members of their armed groups to each other’s May 9 parades, by which Russia annually marks the end of the World War II in Europe.

Putin Decorates 2008 War Pilot: Vladimir Putin awarded the “honored military pilot” decoration to a Russian air force officer Sergey Kobylash who took part in air strikes against Georgia during the Russo-Georgian War in August 2008.

The Military Aspect – All Russian troops in Abkhazia in a battle readiness check: One hundred percent of the Russian troops of the 7th Military Base, stationed in the occupied Abkhazia, took part in a battle readiness check of the Russian 49th Army, to which the 7th Military Base belongs. Armed groups of the Russian-backed Sokhumi authorities participated in the exercises along with the Russian soldiers.

Sokhumi Happenings – Court member controversy continues: Five members of the Sokhumi “parliament” appeal against the election of the “constitutional court” member Alisa Bigvava. It had been previously reported that the “parliament” mistakenly adopted Bigvava’s candidacy with 23 votes instead of the required 24.

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