The European Union calls for the immediate release of Georgian citizen Zaza Gakheladze, who was sentenced to 12 years and six months in the Russian-occupied Tskhinvali region yesterday.
Gakheladze, who was shot and illegally detained by Russian-controlled occupation forces in the summer of 2020, was found guilty of ‘illegally crossing the border and attempted murder’.
EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell has stated that since his illegal detention on July 11 last year, ‘the EU has been urging his prompt release’, including through the hotline managed by the EU Monitoring mission, within the framework of the Ergneti Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) and the Geneva International Discussions.
The European Union calls for the immediate release of Zaza Gakheladze whose illegal detention in the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia was extended today for a further 12 years and 6 months.
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— Carl Hartzell (@CarlHartzellEU) February 5, 2021
In this context, the EU also reminds the Russian Federation of its responsibilities in line with the recent judgement of the European Court of Human Rights which says that Russia violated several articles of the European Convention on Human rights during the conflict and carried out ethnic cleansing of Georgians.
The EU strongly supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders, and will continue addressing the human rights and security situation of the conflict affected communities living alongside the Administrative Boundary Lines in the framework of the Geneva International Discussions and in the IPRM meetings”, the statement reads.
The United States Embassy also expresses solidarity with Zaza Gakheladze and his family, and all families ‘who have had to endure Russia’s oppressive occupation’.
It has meanwhile noted that ‘the dangerous Russian actions taken to wound and detain Mr. Gakheladze would not have occurred if Russia had fulfilled its obligation under the 2008 ceasefire agreement to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions’.
Today’s sentencing is yet another example of Russia’s attempts to illegally control and exploit the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian actions threaten the lives, human rights, culture, and personal freedoms of people living in and near these Georgian territories, and deny them the ability to exercise rights and access opportunities that should be available to all Georgian citizens”, the embassy stated yesterday.
The US Embassy also said that Russia ‘must reverse its recognition of the so-called independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and fulfil its obligation under the 2008 ceasefire agreement to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions and its commitment to provide unfettered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance’.
Calling on the international community to ‘take genuine steps’ to secure the release of Gakheladze, the Georgian foreign ministry noted yesterday that the verdict is a part of Russia’s plan to spark destabilisation in the country.