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Georgian Villagers Arrested By Russian Soldiers Released

TBILISI -- Georgia's Interior Ministry says 16 Georgian citizens arrested by Russian forces near the breakaway republic of South Ossetia will be released, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports.

The Interior Ministry said the villagers -- who were detained by Russian soldiers on October 26 -- will be handed over to Georgian authorities later on October 29. Earlier, a South Ossetian official website said that five other Georgians who had been detained in a separate incident by Russian soldiers were also being released.

The 16 Georgians were detained near the village of Gremiskhevi and charged with illegal border crossing and "deforestation."

On October 29, Russian troops arrested five people from the village of Chvinisi, which is in the same area.

The de facto border between Georgia and South Ossetia has never been officially marked and has been patrolled by Russian soldiers on the South Ossetian side since shortly after Moscow recognized South Ossetia's independence in August of last year.