4 residents of Abkhazia drown trying to enter Tbilisi-controlled territory
Four drown in Enguri river on Georgian-Abkhaz ABL
In the village of Shamgona, Zugdidi municipality, rescuers have removed the bodies of four people from the Enguri River, which runs along the administrative border between Abkhazia and Tbilisi-controlled territory of Georgia.
All four have been identified as citizens of Georgia, ethnic Georgians living in the Gali region of Abkhazia. They tried to cross the river in order to cross over onto the Tbilisi-controlled Zugdidi region, and drowned in the process.
Rescuers found three of the bodies immediately, while one was found several hours later.
A statement on the incident was made by the State Security Service of Georgia, saying that the deaths of civilians crossing the Enguri River “once again demonstrated the inhuman and criminal nature of the occupation, for which the Russian Federation bears full responsibility.”
The ministry said in a statement: “These people have become victims of” illegal restrictions on free movement by the Russian occupation regime. “
“As a result of the continuing occupation of Georgia, the fundamental human rights and fundamental freedoms of our citizens are still grossly violated in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region, for which the Russian occupying forces bear full responsibility,” the statement said.
However, the Georgian non-governmental organization Democracy Research Institute (DRI) believes that the rules imposed by the Georgian government against people living in Abkhazia are to blame.
This concerns the rule according to which the inhabitants of Abkhazia must go into quarantine for five days when crossing over onto Tbilisi-controlled territory.
“Citizens living in Abkhazia use this dangerous method to enter territory controlled by Georgia in order to avoid the five-day mandatory quarantine. We call on the Georgian government to immediately lift the quarantine, which endangers the lives of people,” the organization said in a statement.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs says that a case has been opened and an investigation has begun.
After 2017, the bridge over the Inguri River is the only road along which ordinary citizens cross the administrative border of Abkhazia.
By the beginning of 2017, the number of checkpoints on the Georgian-Abkhaz border had been reduced from six to one, which significantly complicated the already very difficult situation of ethnic Georgians living in Gali beyond the line of occupation.
The overwhelming majority of the population of the Gali region are ethnic Georgians who maintain close contacts with the Georgian side.
Many of them also receive Georgian pensions, and in order to receive money, they must regularly cross the bridge to the Georgian side. They also go over to buy groceries as well as medical treatment.
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Crossing the Enguri bridge at any time is a difficult, time-consuming and expensive procedure for citizens. And it has become even more difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Georgian State Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality Teya Akhvlediani said in early February that traffic on the Inguri Bridge, which was closed for almost a year due to the pandemic, has resumed, but local residents said otherwise. Many residents of Gali complained to the media that they were not allowed to cross the border. Only pensioners and people with disabilities are transported across the bridge. It is still closed to others.