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Passports Are Seized from Ethnic Georgians of Abkhazia At Georgian Checkpoint

24.09.2009
Geronti Kalichava, Zugdidi

Abkhazian and Russian soldiers control Georgian-Abkhazian administrative border in turn. People are not strictly controlled on the checkpoint on the Abkhazian side. However, various procedures are taken by ethnic Georgians from Gali district when they are travelling to Zugdidi.

“Before we cross the border we show Soviet passports to Abkhazian and Russian soldiers at their checkpoint; then we pay 100 Russian Rubles and cross Enguri Bridge,” said residents of Gali district.

Residents of Gali district encounter more problems at Georgian checkpoint. “When we reach Georgian checkpoint Georgian policemen ask us various questions: “Where are you going? Whom are you going to visit? Tell us your telephone number.” Very often they seize our IDs too without any explanations. However, nobody inquires how we live in Gali district.”

On September 20, Georgian policemen seized ID from a young woman from the occupied Sukhumi. When she asked them the reason why they were not giving the document back to her, the policeman said she would be sent back to Sukhumi if she continued complaining about it. “They treat young people like that; but they do not bother old people. I cannot understand why they took my passport; they did not explain anything.”

Student from Gali, who was visiting his parents on summer holidays, said that life is not difficult in the city. He also encountered problems at the Georgian checkpoint and said. “It is not strange that Abkhaz and Russian soldiers make us pay money for crossing the border. But Georgian policemen are checking us and ask plenty of questions to us; and what does it mean?”

He said ethnic Georgians in Gali district create more problems than Abkhaz and Russian people. “Georgians are robbing each other. Abkhazians and Russians do not do any harm to us. Neighbors are robbing each other. Abkhazians offer us their assistance. They treat us more kindly.”

Ethnic Georgians from Abkhazia said in their interviews with us that national TV Channels spread false information about the situation in Gali district. “Information spread by TV channels is false. They interview residents of Zugdidi district and dictate them to speak terrible things about us. After that we really face problems with Abkhaz people. But even Abkhaz people know that Georgian TV Companies do it on purpose. One journalist said Abkhazian people burnt books but it did not happen in fact. Children go to school. It is fact that Georgian language is restricted in the district but since we live there we have to obey their orders at least temporarily.”

Tornike Kilanava, representative of the legitimate authority of Abkhazia in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, assessed the abovementioned stories of ethnic Georgians from Gali district as provocations. He added that those people have lost their ethnicity, surname and patriotism. “It is clear who they are. They are traitors because they make similar statements,” said Kilanava.

Ethnic Georgians from Abkhazia request Georgian and Abkhazian authorities to restore the bus-itineraries which ran across Enguri Bridge one year ago. They say since the run was abolished, they have had to carry luggage across the bridge by hand; the length of the bridge is one kilometer and half.

The white bus that was appointed by the UN disappeared in August of 2008. Now, cart is waiting for the people who are traveling to Abkhazia on the Georgian checkpoint though very rarely.

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