Russia called to relax South Ossetia border with rest of Georgia

Russia called to relax South Ossetia border with rest of Georgia

Amnesty International has demanded that Russia and its puppet state in South Ossetia scrap a ban on movement between the Russian-held client state and the rest of Georgia.

The NGO said the restrictions were “further worsening the humanitarian situation by denying residents of the breakaway region access to medical care, social security benefits, education and family visits”. 

The Moscow-backed South Ossetia said this week that residents of the Akhalgori municipality, who have neither “South Ossetian nor Russian citizenship” and need medical aid, can cross into Georgian-controlled territory for treatment.

Amnesty said the restrictions had caused at least one death and many detentions.  

In late October, Margo Martiashvili, an ethnic-Georgian in Akhalgori, died after allegedly suffering from a stroke. It took an ambulance from occupied South Ossetia three hours to take Martiashvili to a hospital, while it would have taken about 45 minutes to drive to Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.

According to the European Union’s monitoring mission in Georgia, on normal days the Odzisi crossing point sees about 400 people passing the line of control.

Russia-occupied Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s after a conflict between Russian-backed separatists. Georgia has lost about 20 per cent of its territory to Russia.  

The five-day Georgia-Russia war in August 2008, that coincided with the start of the Beijing Olympics, saw Moscow recognise the independence of Abkhazia and the newly occupied South Ossetia enclave. 

An independent report in 2009 commissioned by the European Union blamed Georgia for starting the five-day war with Russia, albeit after provocation. It said Russia’s military response went beyond reasonable limits and that both sides violated international law.

The international community does not recognise either region as Russian territory. 

In late August there was a military buildup on Russian-held South Ossetia after Georgia built an observation post near the village of Tsnelisi.

South Ossetia’s “complete ban on movement” across the line of control was enforced in early September.

Amnesty said the closure “has particularly negatively affected older people, schoolchildren, and university students and those in need of medical care”.  

The 2008 ceasefire divided villages and blocked farmers from their land with a large proportion of displaced people unable to return to their homes.

Georgia hopes to join Nato despite Russian objections.

 

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and the “president” of South Ossetia Leonid Tibilov in 2015. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

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