Russia Sentences Georgian Azovstal Defender to Life in Occupied Donetsk

On February 20, the Russian state-owned media outlet TASS reported that 22-year-old Mamuka Gatserelia, a Georgian citizen and Azovstal defender in Ukraine, has been sentenced to life in prison in the occupied Donetsk region for the alleged “killing of three Russian soldiers.” Gatserelia was captured in May 2022 in Mariupol.

Gatserelia was found guilty under Article 317 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (attempt on the life of a serviceman with the purpose of obstructing the legitimate activity of the said person in ensuring public safety), and Part 3 of Article 359 (participation of a mercenary in an armed conflict).

In December 2023, the Investigative Committee of Russia announced that the investigation of Gatserelia’s case was closed and that his case would be transferred to the court. In the following days, Mamuka Gatserelia’s mother, Dali Chkheidze, told Voice of America that she had asked the Georgian Foreign Ministry and the Ukrainian Embassy in Georgia for help, but they could not guarantee Mamuka’s safety.

According to Dali Chkheidze, Mamuka Gatserelia is an internally displaced person from occupied Sokhumi, Abkhazia. He served in the Georgian Defense Forces until the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In March 2022, 20-year-old Mamuka volunteered to join the Ukrainian Armed Forces. He had a signed contract with the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and was officially enlisted as a rifleman in the Foreign Volunteer Legion of the Ukrainian Army.

Despite this, the Russian side refuses to exchange him for Russian soldiers captured by the Ukrainian side. Lasha Diarovi, the founder of New Georgia – Civic Platform, told VoA that the Russian side refuses to include him in the prisoner exchange program because he has a Georgian passport and is considered a mercenary by Russia.

The Investigative Committee of Russia reports that to more Georgian soldiers -Giorgi Goglidze and Giorgi Chubitidze- captured by the Russian side may face the same fate.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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