TBILISI (Reuters) – Georgia on Sunday demanded the release of a doctor detained by separatists after crossing into breakaway South Ossetia, which is controlled by Russia after a war between two ex-Soviet republics in 2008.
Vazha Gaprindashvili, president of Georgia’s Association of Orthopaedist and Traumatologists, was taken to South Ossetia’s regional center Tskhinvali on Wednesday and given two months of pretrial custody by the separatists, Georgia’s State security service has said. The separatists say he crossed over illegally.
Georgia’s foreign ministry said Gaprindashvili’s detention “highlights the alarming situation of human rights violations in the occupied territories”. Local villagers are often detained on similar grounds but the doctor was a much more high-profile figure. Colleagues said he was trying to reach a patient.
“We have mobilized the international community and spare no efforts to ensure that our citizen, Vazha Gaprindashvili, returns to his family in a timely and safe manner,” the ministry said in a statement.
The United States called for “immediate release of Gaprindashvili and immediate end to closures of the crossing points along the administrative boundary line”.
“We once again urge Russia to fulfill all of its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of its forces to pre-conflict positions,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.
Russia won a brief war against Georgia in 2008, after which Moscow recognized two Georgian breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as independent and deployed troops there.
Russia and South Ossetia signed a deal in 2015 to integrate their security forces and military, angering Georgia which regards the region and Abkhazia as territory occupied by a foreign power.
Reporting by Margarita Antidze; editing by Philippa Fletcher