“We condemn the opening of customs points in the occupied regions of Georgia, namely the opening of the so called customs point in Akhalgori by Russian occupation regime and the creation of the so called specialized customs post in Sokhumi by the Russian Federation,” the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in its statement on January 27.
The two posts, according to MFA, “are aimed at integration of occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions within the customs sphere of the Russian Federation and represent another illegal step towards factual annexation of these regions by the Russian Federation.”
The Ministry drew particular attention to the recent opening of the “customs point” in Akhalgori Municipality, saying the opening, as well as the parallel ban on meat and dairy product transportation, “aggravates the dire humanitarian situation of the local population, restricts their freedom of movement and blatantly violates their fundamental rights.”
The Ministry then called upon the Russian Federation “to cease the provocative actions against the Georgian statehood” and abide by its international commitments, and appealed to the international community “to give due assessment to Russia’s aggressive policy and take effective measures against the steps towards factual annexation of the territories of the sovereign state.”
The Russian-backed Tskhinvali authorities opened the new “customs post” on the occupation line in village Mosabruni of Akhalgori Municipality on January 17. According to the region’s authorities, as previously, Akhalgori residents would be allowed to transport goods (except meats and dairy) of up to 50 kilograms monthly for personal use. Products beyond that limit (up to three tons) would have to be declared, however.
Local authorities stress that the “customs post” was installed to “stop smuggling of agricultural products to South Ossetia,” and that it would “assist the Russian border guards” deployed in the area. “Since previously the customs monitoring was happening without them (the customs officers), it imposed additional pressures on the Russian border guards,” the region’s Moscow-backed “government head,” Erik Pukhaev, noted.
Akhalgori Municipality, the territory of which was almost entirely under the jurisdiction of the central government before the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, is home to 4209 persons, according to the region’s authorities. 2337 (55.5%) of the total population are ethnic Georgians, who maintain close economic ties with the rest of the country.