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South Ossetia Returns Body Of Georgian Man

Archil Tatunashvili
Archil Tatunashvili

Authorities in Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region have sent the body of a Georgian man who died while in the custody of separatist officials back to government-held territory.

The body of Archil Tatunashvili was transferred to Tbilisi-controlled territory on March 20.

Georgian Interior Ministry official Aleksandre Khojevanishvili told journalists that the remains will be examined by forensic experts in the capital.

Russia-backed separatist authorities in South Ossetia say 35-year-old Tatunashvili died of heart failure on February 22 after he allegedly attacked police as they tried to move him to a detention cell.

Separatist authorities detained Tatunashvili, who they claimed was plotting terrorist attacks in South Ossetia.

The incident has sparked outrage in Georgia and abroad.

The United States and European Union had called on Russia and the authorities controlling South Ossetia to return Tatunashvili’s body and to allow two other Georgian men remaining in the breakaway region to return home.

The U.S. ambassador to Georgia, Ian Kelly, said on March 6 that Washington was "very supportive of the [Georgian] prime minister's efforts and the efforts of his government to bring closure to the family of Mr. Tatunashvili and to the Georgian people, and of course accountability for what happened in this tragedy."

European Union foreign--policy chief Federica Mogherini's office said on February 25 that Tatunashvili’s death and the detention of the two others was a "source of grave concern."

The president of the Council of Europe on February 27 expressed "outrage and sorrow" following news of the death of Tatunashvili.

"A transparent investigation is urgently needed to establish the circumstances behind his death and the responsibility for this act," Gudren Mosler-Tornstrom said in a statement on February 27.

The fate of Levan Kutashvili and Ioseb Pavliashvili, the two other Georgians detained with Tatunashvili but later reportedly released, remains unclear.

South Ossetia broke from Georgia after a war in the early 1990s. After a war against Tbilisi in 2008, Russia recognized South Ossetia and breakaway Abkhazia as independent states, but the international community overwhelmingly recognizes the two territories as part of Georgia.

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