Russia accuses arrested Georgian civilians of illegal logging

Fri 30 October 2009 10:26 GMT | 10:26 Local Time

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Andrey Nesterenko

A criminal case has been opened against 16 Georgian civilians detained by Russian border guards, Russia's deputy foreign minister, Andrey Nesterenko, has said.

He told a briefing in Moscow on Thursday that the civilians had not been collecting firewood when they were arrested, but carrying out illegal logging.

Nesterenko said that the group had been on South Ossetian territory at the time of their arrest.

"The sites where the Georgian citizens were detained, in accordance with the existing maps, are within the territory of South Ossetia," Nesterenko said. "The detainees have been handed over to the Akhalgori Prosecutor's Office, where the necessary investigations are being conducted. A criminal case has been opened. Yesterday, by means of satellite communication, representatives of the Georgian Interior Ministry and EU monitors checked the coordinates of the Georgian citizens' detention, and found out that it took place in the territory of South Ossetia. This is the second group engaged in illegal activities in the border zone of South Ossetia and Georgia."

Georgian officials are still waiting for an official response on the detentions.

Tbilisi calls on the international community to respond rapidly and to help get the civilians released.


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