OSCE Group of Friends Concerned by ‘Intensified Provocations’ by Russia, Sokhumi, Tskhinvali

The OSCE Group of Friends of Georgia, which includes Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, released a joint statement on December 5, reaffirming their “full support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders,” and calling on Russia “to reverse its recognition of the so-called independence” of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia. 

“Eleven years since the Russian military invasion of Georgia, we remain deeply concerned over the continued occupation of the territory of Georgia,” the group said, denouncing “intensified provocations by Russia and the regimes in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, including the attempted expansion of the occupied area and the building of ‘posts’ by the so-called security forces of South Ossetia region close to Chorchana village on territory controlled by the Georgian Government.”

We also remain concerned over the installation of barbed wire fences and other artificial barriers along the administrative boundary line in the villages of Atotsi and Gugutiantkari, and lengthy closures of so-called crossing points in Georgia’s South Ossetia region. These actions have destabilized the situation on the ground and severely impacted the security, safety, well-being, and humanitarian conditions of people in conflict-affected areas,” they stated.

In their joint statement, the group referred to increased Russian military exercises in, and militarization of, Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions; ethnic discrimination against Georgians residing in the occupied regions; human rights abuses, including those involving the reported use of torture, destruction of houses of internally displaced persons (IDPs); undue restrictions on freedom of movement, residence and property, as well as arbitrary detentions and killings of Georgian citizens. 

According to the statement, the recent death of Margo Martiashvili from Akhalgori district, “who was deprived of the possibility to get prompt and adequate medical care, due to the closure of the so-called crossing points, is another tragic illustration of grave consequences of the continuing restrictions on the freedom of movement for the local population.”

“Gravely concerned” by the detention of Georgian doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili in Tskhinvali region, the Group of Friends also called for his “immediate release.” They also said that the detention of the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) monitors by representatives of the so-called security forces of Tskhinvali region, and any attempt to impede their work can be assessed as “provocation against and blatant attempt to destabilize peace and security on the ground.”

Stressing that they “will continue to raise awareness of the conflict and of developments on the ground, hold Russia accountable for its obligations, and advocate for the conflict’s peaceful resolution,” the Group of Friends called on “those in effective control to enable full and unhindered access by international and human rights organisations to Georgia’s regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”

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