Georgian officials have condemned the construction of new iron fences in the village of Gugutiantkari of the Gori Municipality, near the occupation line with South Ossetia/Tskhinvali Region, and called on the international community for support.
Georgian Reconciliation Minister Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, Deputy Foreign Minister Lasha Darsalia and Irakli Antadze of the State Security Service, arrived at the village on August 16, expressed support to locals and briefed foreign diplomats accompanying them on the process of “borderization” on the ground.
The so called “borderization” process was launched by the Russian forces in Gugutiantkari on August 7, when they erected iron poles and later fenced them. The occupying force gave a three-day term to the families, whose households appeared beyond the barrier, to quit their houses. According to media reports, some locals started to dismantle their houses.
Georgian Reconciliation Minister Ketevan Tsikhelashvili told reporters today that “the government’s key task is to stop the process of “borderization” by all possible means, as well as to assist the population living near the occupation line.”
“We will definitely defeat this ugliness. We will never tolerate and we will use all peaceful means, through diplomacy or peace policy, to defeat it,” she said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Lasha Darsalia said in his remarks that the government immediately notified partner countries and provided comprehensive information to the co-chairs of the Geneva International Discussions about the process of “borderization.” He also noted that the current situation in the occupied regions was one of the main issues raised at the UN Security Council.
“It is important for the entire world to see what Russian occupation means and how occupation affects both security and humanitarian situation on the ground,” he told reporters.
Asked why the government officials did not appear immediately after the process of “borderization” was renewed, Lasha Darsalia responded that all relevant agencies “are working actively from the very first days, including on the ground.”
Response of opposition and Public Defender
Opposition also accused the government of inaction. MP Elene Khoshtaria of the European Georgia party arrived at Gugutiantkari on August 15 and familiarized herself with the process of “borderization” on the ground. She noted that the Foreign Ministry and foreign diplomats had to arrive there and show the entire world from there that in the 21st century “Russia is splitting lands so outrageously.”
Zaal Udumashvili of the National Movement also accused the government of abandoning local population.
“Creeping occupation practically continues on a daily basis; we see that new barbed wires are erected on a daily basis and it will never stop… Very resolute steps and very strict policy are needed to prevent it,” he noted.
Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria also arrived at the village yesterday and called on the government to assist locals affected by the process of “borderization.”
Commenting on the matter, Mamuka Khazaradze, founder of the TBC Bank, called on Georgian businesspeople to assist local residents, adding that he would buy a house for one family, whose household appeared beyond the barrier as a result of “borderization.”
Foreign diplomats’ assessments
Government officials were accompanied in Gugutiantkari by the Ambassadors of Estonia, Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia, Israel and Japan, as well as the Acting Ambassadors of the United States and Ukraine.
Speaking with reporters, the Estonian and Japanese Ambassadors, as well as the Acting Ukrainian Ambassador and the Head of the EU Monitoring Mission reiterated support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and expressed concerns over creeping occupation.
Earlier on August 14, Erik Høeg, head of the EU Monitoring Mission to Georgia, expressed “deep concern” about continued borderization in Gugutiantkari. “New fencing hinders freedom of movement and could stop locals from accessing orchards and water resources,” he wrote on his Twitter on August 14.
On August 15, the U.S. Embassy said that it “is troubled by reports that Russian-backed de-facto authorities have resumed the installation of fencing at the village of Gugutiantkari.”
“The process of “borderization” is a threat to peace and stability, as it harms livelihoods and hinders the flow of people and goods. We once again call upon Russia to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions and allow unfettered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, per its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement,” it said.