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TBILISI -- Sixteen Georgian citizens, including a 14-year-old, were detained near Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia, RFE/RL's Georgian and Russian services report.

All of those detained are residents of the village of Gremiskhevi, which is near South Ossetia, and were detained while collecting firewood in the forest near their village.

They were transferred to the Ossetian town of Leningori. All of them were charged with illegally crossing the border.

The villagers said they did not cross the border into Ossetia and were collecting wood in Georgia proper.

An EU 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, Reuters reported.

"The arrest of the 16 residents of Gremiskhevi seriously affects the daily life of this village," the 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."

One detainee called home with his mobile phone to tell relatives about the situation.

Six Georgians from the village of Lamiskana were detained several months ago for illegally crossing the border and were jailed in Tskhinvali, capital of South Ossetia. They have been in custody since then.

The Georgian-South Ossetian border is guarded mainly by Russian forces.
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