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Russian Sentenced To Four Years In Prison For Role In Alleged Plot To Kill Georgian Journalist

Georgian journalist Giorgi Gabunia (file photo)
Georgian journalist Giorgi Gabunia (file photo)

TBILISI -- A court in Georgia has sentenced a Russian citizen to four years in prison for involvement in an alleged plot to kill a Georgian journalist.

The Tbilisi City Court on February 20 found Magomed Gutsiyev, a native of Russia's North Caucasus region, guilty of illegal border-crossing, forgery, and the illegal surveillance of journalist Giorgi Gabunia.

Gutsiyev was arrested by Georgian authorities in June with documents identifying him as Vasambek Bokov.

Georgia's Service for State Security (SUS) said at the time that they had arrested a Russian citizen, identified as V.B., who they suspected of planning to kill Gabunia.

In July 2019, Gabunia crudely insulted Russian President Vladimir Putin live on air amid worsening ties between Georgia and Russia.

The reporter called Putin a "stinking occupier" and used a string of obscenities to curse the Russian president, as well as Putin's mother and father -- and vowed to defecate on Putin's grave.

Gabunia's controversial comments were condemned by Russian and Georgian authorities.

The Moscow-backed leader of Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, publicly vowed to "punish" Gabunia at the time.

In recent years, several Kadyrov critics have been killed outside Russia, and many believe that either Kadyrov himself or Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) were behind the apparent assassinations.

Rights groups say Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya since 2007, uses repressive measures and has created a climate of impunity for security forces in the volatile region.

They allege Kadyrov is ultimately responsible for the violence and intimidation of political opponents by Chechen authorities, including kidnappings, forced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings.