Russian military personnel fatally shot a Georgian citizen and abducted another Georgian in the South Ossetian occupation zone on November 6.
The two men, named as Tamaz Ginturi, 58, and Levan Dotiashvili respectively, had visited the village cemetery, 60 kilometres north-west of Tbilisi, and were on their way to the Lomisi church when they were stopped by Russian military personnel who then opened fire, reports say. The church is in an area controlled by Russian forces, and local residents have not been allowed to approach it since 2018.
Ginturi was a former special forces officer and a veteran of the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, according to reports.
This marks the first deadly incident on the de-facto border since the brief war over South Ossetia in 2008. The border is not clearly defined, and arrests of civilians near the border are common. Similar events occurred a few years ago. In 2016, Giorgi Otkhozoria was shot at a checkpoint near Nabakevi village near Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgian territory. Two years later, Archil Tatunashvili died in prison after crossing into South Ossetia.
President Salome Zurabishvili described the incident as "a brutal attack on Georgian statehood" and called on the international community to "clearly condemn Russia's actions, which blatantly violate all international rules".
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili also called on the international community to respond to the incident and urged the Russian authorities in South Ossetia to cooperate in identifying and punishing the perpetrator.
Georgian officials called for the immediate release of Dotiashvili and the identification of those responsible for the death of Ginturi at a meeting they requested with representatives of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM), jointly run by the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Russian forces have been stationed in South Ossetia since 1992. The small breakaway region is recognised as part of Georgia by most of the world. Russia granted recognition to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another Georgian breakaway province, shortly after the 2008 war.
Following the August 2008 war, Russian military personnel stationed along the conflict zone's perimeter began displaying white and green banners bearing the inscriptions "State Border" and "South Ossetia". Barbed-wire fences mark what Russia considers to be the border line. This process, referred to as "borderisation”, claims to follow old Soviet maps.
The Georgian side has labelled this process "creeping annexation" and argues that it results in Russia progressively seizing new Georgian territory with every installation of barbed wire.