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Residents of village Koda fear that the only functional road linking their village to the rest of Georgia could fall on the Russian-controlled area. Photo: screengrab from GPB

Tskhinvali Makes Territorial Claims

The Moscow-backed authorities of Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia say some Ossetian territories were left outside their control and intend to probe into possible errors committed by “the state commission for delimitation and demarcation of the state border between Georgia and the Republic of South Ossetia.”

The investigative commission was endorsed by the region’s legislature on June 20, citing numerous appeals of residents of village Tsnelisi in Znauri district, west of Tskhinvali, that “part of their village” fell beyond the region’s boundaries.

Village Tsnelisi, home to 26 persons, lies south-west of Znauri district and borders with Tbilisi-controlled territory on both sides – Kareli Municipality to the east and Khashuri Municipality to the west.

Ruslan Tedeev, one of the members of the legislative assembly, said the lawmakers carried out preliminary study on the matter, and found out “that there still are places where the border [with Georgia] was fixed incorrectly.”

“The issue requires scrupulous examination, and if violations have been made in the border demarcation process, intentionally or unintentionally, they need be identified and corrected,” said Piotr Gasiev, head of the region’s legislature.

“This is outrageous and someone should be held accountable – how did it happen that some houses were left on the territory of Georgia and now we are forced to return our territories back,” added Inal Mamiev, deputy head.

Disputed Land

Although exact whereabouts of Tskhinvali’s territorial claims remain unclear, the new development means that additional Tbilisi-controlled territory might fall on the Russian-controlled area.

Ruslan Tedeev, one of the members of the legislature, specified at the June 20 meeting that the disputed territory in Tsnelisi includes a talcum mine with “significant marble deposits.”

Earlier, Tskhinvali authorities have also claimed some households of Tsnelisi residents were left outside the region’s boundaries as the line was drawn strictly in line with the administrative borders of the Autonomous Oblast.

Residents of Koda, a nearby village in Tbilisi-controlled Kareli Municipality, fear that Tskhinvali’s territorial claims could affect them as well, cutting the only functional road linking the village to the rest of Georgia (through village Abano).

Civil.Ge inquired into the matter, but was unable to verify the details on Tsnelisi households in the disputed area.

The two publicly available maps of the region – that by the Google Maps and the Russia-based Yandex show a different picture on other areas in question  – while in the former the Koda-Abano road falls within the region’s FSB-protected boundaries, in Yandex maps neither Koda-Abano road, nor the talcum mine appear to be in the region’s boundaries.

Tsnelisi-Koda-Abano Map by Google Maps.

Tsnelisi-Koda-Abano Map by Yandex.ru.

After the August, 2008 war and following recognition of Tskhinvali by Moscow, Russian forces in the region started unilateral “border demarcation” activities roughly in line with the administrative borders of the former Autonomous Oblast of South Ossetia. Tbilisi has condemned the process and rejected Moscow’s appeals to engage in the demarcation talks with Tskhinvali.

Reactions in Tbilisi

Reconciliation Minister Ketevan Tsikhelashvili said the decision to establish the commission was “a provocation” that could “aggravate security and humanitarian situation on the ground.”

“Instead of erecting barbed wires and other restrictions, it would be better to listen to the residents of Muguti, Tsnelisi, Artsevi, Ikorta, Abrevi, Orchosani and Tsinagari (villages in Tskhinvali Region bordering with Georgia proper), where both Georgians and Ossetians are suffering and are asking for the freedom of movement, but are getting barbed wires in response,” she said.

“It would be better to work on the solution together, especially in light of the fact that Georgia’s peace policy entails important and concrete initiatives for improving the well-being of locals,” Tsikhelashvili added.

Deputy Foreign Minister Davit Dondua, the country’s chief negotiator in the Geneva International Discussions, echoed Tsikhelashvili’s sentiments, saying the move was “a provocation” that “takes place practically every day in the occupied regions and adjacent territories.”

“There can be no delimitation when there is no border,” Dondua also stressed, adding that “if anyone has any claims on anything, that is the nearly hundred villages populated by ethnic Georgians, which were bulldozed to the ground by Russian occupants and the representatives of their occupation regime.”

Znauri (Kornisi) district, one of the four districts of the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast, was merged with the neighboring Kareli district of Shida Kartli region by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia in 1991. However, only part of the district territory, mostly ethnic Georgian areas, remained under the jurisdiction of the central government. Tbilisi lost control of the remaining pockets as a result of the Russo-Georgian War of 2008. The district is currently home to 4531 persons, less than half of 1989 population. 431 (9.51%) of the total population are ethnic Georgians, which is eight times less than the corresponding figure in 1989 – 3619. Some were displaced in early 1990s, while others were forced to flee after the 2008 war).

This post is also available in: Georgian Russian

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