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Mixed reaction from Georgian government after Russian forces kill Georgian citizen near occupied South Ossetia

by Nate Ostiller November 7, 2023 9:43 AM 3 min read
A woman holds a Georgian flag near South Ossetia, one of Georgia's territories illegally occupied by Russia, on Aug. 8, 2023, which marked the 15th anniversary of Russia's invasion of Georgia in 2008. (Nicolo Vincenzo Malvestuto/Getty Images)
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Officials from the Georgian government issued mixed reactions in response to the Nov. 6 Russian attack on civilians near the occupied territory of South Ossetia that left one man dead and another kidnapped, Georgian media reported on Nov. 7.

Irakli Garibashvili, Georgia's Prime Minister, condemned the attack, characterizing it as a murder committed by Russia's occupation forces, RFE/RL's Georgian service wrote.

Georgian President and political opponent of Garibashvili, Salome Zourabichvili, described it as a "blatant attack on Georgian statehood" in a post on Twitter.

However, comments from other key members of the ruling Georgian Dream party also sought to shift the blame towards the previous government under currently jailed ex-prime minister Mikhail Saakashvili.

Saakashvili, who has Ukrainian citizenship, is currently serving a six-year prison sentence on charges of abuse of power. After several hunger strikes, his health has taken a drastic turn for the worse.

Kakha Kaladze, mayor of the capital, Tbilisi, said, "Georgia will use all levers to hold the criminal responsible," the Georgian media outlet Formula News reported. He also said that the occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two regions of Georgia under the de-facto rule of Russia since the 2008 Russo-Georgian war, was the fault of the previous government.

The outspoken Georgian Dream party chairman, Irakli Khobakidze, used even stronger language, denouncing the "treacherous policies" of the Saakashvili government that led to the occupation.

It was first reported on Nov. 6 that Russian forces had killed a Georgian citizen and detained another near the town of Kirbali, by the border of occupied South Ossetia.

New details emerged on Nov. 7, RFE/RL's Georgian service reported. According to Russian proxy officials in South Ossetia, two Georgians were driving towards a church in the occupied territory and refused to stop when asked by border guards from the occupation forces.

The account from the proxy officials claimed that the two men were intoxicated and aggressive and that the border guards fired at them in self-defense, leaving a 58-year-old man dead, preliminarily identified as Tamaz Ginturi. The border guards then arrested his companion, Levan Dotiashvili, who is still held in custody. The Georgian government has called for his release.

The arrest of civilians has been a common occurrence near the occupation line. However, this is the first fatal incident to take place since the 2008 war, Reuters reported.

It was not the first time that Georgia's government has made controversial statements and actions regarding Russia's aggressive acts, both in Georgia and Ukraine.

In May 2023, Garibashvili was widely condemned for saying that Ukraine was partly to blame for Russia's invasion.

Georgia has also neglected to join sanctions or other efforts to isolate Russia. Representatives from Georgian Dream did not vote for the Oct. 14 Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) resolution that declared Russia a dictatorship.

A poll conducted in April 2023 by the Caucasus media outlet Jam News found that 87% of Georgians believed Russia to be the country's primary political threat. Another 79% supported revoking the visa-free regime for Russians to visit Georgia.

Batu Kutelia: Lessons from Georgia of geopolitical procrastination
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in the op-ed section are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of the Kyiv Independent. Feb. 24, 2022, was the date that Russia launched a decisive offensive against the free world. This war has caused a far-reaching domino effect

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