The EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) and the Georgian State Security Service (SSG) deny reports that Russian officers seized additional territory in Didi Khurvaleti, a village in Gori Municipality, at the edge of the Russian-occupied Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia.
Reports that Russian troops advanced deeper into the Tbilisi-controlled territory emerged when Luda Salia, a local resident, wrote on her Facebook page that a group of armed men entered the yards of several households in the outskirts of the village. The story was quickly picked up by both local and national media.
The EUMM head, Erik Høeg denied the reports in a twitter post, saying security actors were indeed present on spot, but no incidents were registered. “All mechanisms, including Hotline, are being used to ensure communication,” he wrote.
#EUMM patrols are currently monitoring in the area of Didi Khurvaleti. No signs of new borderisation activities. Security actors are present but we register no incidents. All mechanisms, including Hotline, are being used to ensure communication.
— Erik Hoeg (@erik_hoeg) March 15, 2019
The State Security Service (SSG), Georgia’s domestic intelligence agency, denied the reports as well, saying Russian presence in the Tbilisi-administered territory “cannot be confirmed at this point.”
The SSG called on all actors “to refrain from provocative statements.” “Every action by the occupying forces worsens the existing security environment,” it noted.
Tskhinvali announced tightening of security measures in the Didi Khurvaleti area on March 13, in connection to an alleged “pre-planned provocation” by Davit Katsarava, a leader of the anti-occupation Strength in Unity movement (Editor’s note: Katsarava and his group were reportedly planning to help two local residents cultivate their land).
Tskhinvali’s “security service” said the purpose of the “provocation” was to destabilize the situation and “create preconditions” for their arrest. “We would like to inform the participants that if they violate the border of the republic of South Ossetia, they will be detained in accordance to the South Ossetian legislation,” it said.