Int’l Pressure Mounts On Russian-Backed Separatist Regime For Georgian Doctor’s Release
Georgia on 17 November demanded the release of a doctor detained by separatists after crossing into breakaway South Ossetia, which is controlled by Russia after a war between two ex-Soviet republics in 2008.
Vazha Gaprindashvili, president of Georgia’s Association of Orthopaedist and Traumatologists, was taken to South Ossetia’s regional center Tskhinvali on Wednesday and given two months of pretrial custody by the separatists, Georgia’s State Security Service has said. The separatists say he crossed over illegally.
Famous Georgian doctor and traumatologist Vazha Gaprindashvili, who was illegally detained by Russian-controlled occupation forces on Saturday, has been charged with “deliberately crossing the border” by de facto Tskhinvali, while three other Georgian citizens illegally detained between November 9 and 11 have been released.
The Georgian State Security Service has reported that Gaprindashvili was detained illegally near the village of Orchosani currently under Russian control. The Georgian media outlets report that Gaprindashvili was visiting a patient when he was abducted.
The hot-line has been activated by the European Union Monitoring mission and negotiations are in progress regarding the release of the doctor.
We are doing our utmost for the release of Vazha Gaprindashvili,” the Georgian State Security Service says.
Three other illegally detained individuals, Ramaz Zadishvili, David Mishelashvili and Zurab Tukhashvili were released earlier today after paying fine “for illegally crossing the border.”
The de facto Tskhinvali government closed crossing points with the rest of Georgia starting September 4, 2019, causing severe humanitarian situation on the ground, with two individuals already dead due to delayed medical aid.
The illegal detention of Georgian citizens by Russian occupation forces near the occupation line is a common issue. Detainees are usually released after their families pay a fine.
The standard fine is 2,000 Russian rubles (about €28/$31 USD).
Russia recognized the Georgian regions of Tskhinvali and Abkhazia as independent states in the wake of the Russia-Georgia 2008 war.
Georgia’s foreign ministry said Gaprindashvili’s detention “highlights the alarming situation of human rights violations in the occupied territories”. Local villagers are often detained on similar grounds but the doctor was a much more high-profile figure. Colleagues said he was trying to reach a patient.
“We have mobilized the international community and spare no efforts to ensure that our citizen, Vazha Gaprindashvili, returns to his family in a timely and safe manner,” the ministry said in a statement.
The United States called for “immediate release of Gaprindashvili and immediate end to closures of the crossing points along the administrative boundary line”.
“We once again urge Russia to fulfill all of its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of its forces to pre-conflict positions,” the U.S. embassy said in a statement.
Russia won a brief war against Georgia in 2008, after which Moscow recognized two Georgian breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as independent and deployed troops there.
Russia and South Ossetia signed a deal in 2015 to integrate their security forces and military, angering Georgia which regards the region and Abkhazia as territory occupied by a foreign power.