Five Georgian citizens have been detained on August 28 for “illegally crossing the state border,” the “security service” of the Moscow-backed Tskhinvali region announced today, stressing the probe into the case has been launched.
The statement also noted that the case of Gia Bagdoshvili, Mzia Gomuri, Vakhtang Gubeladze, Beka Magradze and Ketevan Magradze might be sent to court for further consideration.
Shalva Magradze, one of the parents, told RFE/RL’s Georgian service that his daughter, Ketevan and her friends went on hiking to Truso gorge last Friday, but turned out to be in detention in Tskhinvali jail later on.
Magradze said the court session is currently underway. However, he felt hopeful that the youth would return to their families safe after paying the fine.
Georgian State Security Service confirmed the Georgians have been detained, but did not provide any further details. The EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) also told Civil.ge that they received information “through the Mission managed Hotline that five young people were unaccounted for.”
“The Mission has been able to confirm their whereabouts, and that they are safe. The parties involved are working together to see that they are returned to their families as soon as possible,” the EUMM said.
EUMM, which was mandated to oversee the implementation of the 2008 Russian-Georgian ceasefire agreement, has unarmed monitors on the ground, but was never allowed access to either Abkhazia or South Ossetia/Tskhinvali Region.
Confusion over detention location
The location of detention and its implication has stirred confusion. The Moscow-backed Tskhinvali authorities have identified Keli Lake (red marker on the map below) as the location of detention. This lake inside the boundary line – former Administrative Border of South Ossetian Autonomous District – which is being patrolled by Russian occupation forces stationed in Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.
Shalva Magradze, one of the parents, speaking to RFE/RL’s Georgian service, confirmed the detention happened at the Keli lake, but – in a clear contradiction – argued “they did not commit such a [serious] crime; they were in their native territory – in Truso gorge”, while saying that the youths knew the location well, as they have traveled to Truso gorge at least thrice before.
A screenshot of the FB post of one of the detained, Mzia Gomuri suggests they went to Kelitsadi lake – in orange on the map – which is outside the occupation line (segment in green on the map), within Tbilisi-controlled territory.