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Russian Forces Arrest More Georgians Near South Ossetia

TBILISI -- The number of Georgian citizens arrested this week by Russian forces near South Ossetia has reached 21, RFE/RL's Russian and Georgian services report.

Russian troops arrested five people on October 29 in the village of Chvinisi near the border with the breakaway republic of South Ossetia and charged them with illegally crossing the border.

Earlier this week, 16 Georgians from the village of Gremiskhevi were arrested by Russian guards in the same area and charged with illegal border crossing and "deforestation." One of the detainees is 14 years old.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry officially protested the Russian guards' actions via Swiss diplomats. Georgian officials say the arrest of their citizens is illegal.

South Ossetian officials say the arrests of the Georgians have nothing to do with politics and are common
criminal cases.

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 after Moscow recognized South Ossetia's independence after a five-day war with Georgian forces in August of last year.