S. Ossetia detains 16 Georgians for 'illegally gathering woods'

Georgia's rebel South Ossetia region said it had detained 16 Georgian citizens for illegally crossing its de facto border.

S. Ossetia detains 16 Georgians for 'illegally gathering woods'

Georgia's rebel South Ossetia region said on Monday it had detained 16 Georgian citizens for illegally crossing its de facto border, causing concern in Tbilisi and among European ceasefire monitors.

Merab Chigoyev, an aide to South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity, said the group crossed the boundary in southeastern South Ossetia and was caught illegally gathering wood, South Ossetia's RES news agency reported.

A European Union observer mission deployed after last year's five-day Russia-Georgia war said the group was detained by Russian border guards, "in the vicinity" of the boundary.

Detentions on the poorly defined boundary line are common, but rarely of such a large group.

"The arrest of the 16 residents of Gremiskhevi seriously affects the daily life of this village," the EU mission said in a statement.

"At the same time, the incident reflects the wider problem of activities along the ABL (Administrative Boundary Line) which are likely to increase due to preparations for the winter season."

The Georgian foreign ministry said it was working to secure the release of the group, which it said had been abducted.

Russia has controlled the de facto border since crushing a Georgian assault on the rebel region in August last year.

Reuters

Last Mod: 27 Ekim 2009, 00:18
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