Russia trades accusations with Georgia over alleged mass civilian detentions
Mike Rosen-Molina at 11:57 AM ET
[JURIST] Georgia is forcibly detaining Russian citizens within its borders in violation of international law, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website] said in a Monday communication with Minister of Internal Affairs Rashid Nurgaliev. In the communication, Medvedev instructed Nurgaliev to ensure that the rights of ethnic Georgians in Russia are protected:
I have received information, and you have probably also heard this, that the Georgian authorities are forcibly detaining Russian citizens on Georgian territory. This is, of course, in complete violation of international law. I do not know why they are doing this. Maybe they think they can use these people as a human shield. This is a completely unacceptable situation.The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website] denied the allegations as "an absolute lie" [press release.] Also Monday, Georgia levied similar accusations of mass detentions against Russia [press release]:
I also want to say - and I want you to take this under your personal control that all citizens of foreign states, who are legally in Russia, must not be subjected to any kind of discrimination and can remain in Russia in accordance with the agreements that our country has with the countries from which these people have come. Supervision of these matters is the Ministry of Internal Affairs' responsibility and I ask you to ensure it is carried out.
According to the reliable information held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Russian servicemen and separatists carry out mass arrests of peaceful civilians of Georgian origin still remaining on the territory of the Tskhinvali region and subsequently concentrate them on the territory of the village of Kurta. CNN has more.
Georgia appeals to the International Red Cross and other humanitarian and international organizations and the international community as a whole to immediately take decisive and effective measures for the evacuation of this population from the conflict zone.
International human rights groups on Saturday condemned any violence Russian or Georgian forces might commit against civilians in the separatist region of South Ossetia [BBC backgrounder], warning that those actions may amount to war crimes. After a period of smaller conflicts, on Friday the Republic of Georgia [official backgrounder; JURIST news archive] announced that to restore constitutional order, it was launching a large scale military offensive [NY Times report] in the region, which broke away from Georgia following a 1991-1992 war. On Saturday, Russia sent troops [BBC report] into South Ossetia in what it called a mission to protect civilians. Analysts say the current fighting marks the continuing deterioration [JURIST report] in Georgian-Russian relations. Recent conflicts have included accusations by Georgian authorities [JURIST report] that Russia instigated protests calling for an overthrow of the government last November, and allegations of Russia's role in a coup plot [JURIST report] in August 2007.
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