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Wednesday 3 July 2019

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Villager Davit Vanishvili stands near the barbed-wire de facto border separating Georgian territory from Russia-backed breakaway land.

Georgian villagers living near demarcation lines with two breakaway regions say their quality of life has declined since physical barriers were built, cutting them off from family, land, and markets.

A report published on July 3 by London-based Amnesty International cited villagers as also complaining that they are often “arbitrarily” detained by Russia-backed authorities while attempting to cross the borders that are recognized by just a few Moscow-allied countries.

“Villagers -- some living in the poorest parts of the country -- have lost access to pastures, farmland, and orchards, to sources of water in summer, and firewood for winter,” the report said.

Following a five-day war in August 2008 between Georgia and Russia, the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared their independence from Tbilisi with Kremlin support. The two regions account for about 20 percent of Georgia’s territory.


For the past decade, Russian forces have been trying to turn “dotted lines” on a map into a physical international border, disrupting life, the report said. Physical barriers now cut through at least 34 villages, Georgian authorities told Amnesty.

The forces have used various means to create a physical border including barbed-wire, metal or wooden fences, and trenches. They have also installed signs and surveillance equipment, it said.

A barbed-wire border that cut through the village of Khurvaleti separated Davit Vanishvili from his family, forcing his relatives to pass his pension and medicine through the fence after sunset, according to the report.

“The constraints placed on their freedom of movement also negatively impact on other rights, eroding living standards, impairing access to agricultural land, health care, places of worship and education, and entrenching discriminatory attitudes and measures," the report said.

In areas where there is no physical border, villagers often don’t know where the demarcation line is, resulting in their detention, Amnesty said.

As many as 1,000 Georgian families have lost partial or total access to farmland they worked as well as forests they used, the report said.

Amnesty said it does not know how many families on the other side of the border in the breakaway regions are impacted as they were not given access by local or Russian officials.

The rights watchdog said it spoke with more than 150 people on the Georgian side for its report, in addition to Georgian government officials.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Todd Prince in Washington and RFE/RL's Georgian Service
The U.S. charge d’affaires in Kyiv, William Taylor (file photo)

The U.S. charge d’affaires in Kyiv has condemned Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine after reports of deadly attacks on medical personnel and called on Moscow and the “forces it backs” to end the fighting “immediately.”

“Attacks by Russia-led forces on medical personnel show a complete lack of respect for human life, international standards, and the Minsk agreements," William B. Taylor said on July 2 in a statement on the embassy's Facebook page.

“We call on Russia and the forces it backs to end the fighting immediately, protect civilians and humanitarian personnel, and withdraw armed forces and weapons,” he wrote.

Taylor is the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was brought back to serve as charge d’affaires in Kyiv last year.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on July 1 said one of its soldiers was killed after Russia-backed separatists opened fire at a medical vehicle in the eastern region of Donetsk.

The ministry said two other servicemen -- a soldier and a military physician -- were injured in the anti-tank-missile attack on July 1. Officials said that the medical specialist died later from wounds at the hospital.

The Defense Ministry said on July 2 that separatist fighters violated a cease-fire 25 times in a 24-hour period, using 120- and 82-millimeter mortars that are banned under the Minsk peace agreements.

The ministry said Ukrainian armed forces had killed three separatists and wounded five others.

Separatists in Donetsk said one of their fighters had been killed and another one wounded by Ukrainian armed forces.

Since April 2014, some 13,000 people have been killed in fighting between Kyiv's forces and the separatists who control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Cease-fire deals announced as part of the Minsk accords -- September 2014 and February 2015 pacts aimed at resolving the conflict -- have contributed to a decrease in fighting but have failed to hold.

A new cease-fire agreement was reached on March 8, but both sides have accused each other of repeated violations since then.



On July 1, Ukraine's embassy to Britain posted on Twitter the photos of the nine Ukrainian soldiers it said were killed by "Russia-led forces in occupied Donbas" in June, referring to the areas under separatist control.

With reporting by Interfax

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