Ten local residents of a village in mountainous region of Racha are held in detention by the authorities in breakaway South Ossetia accusing them of crossing into the region’s “state border” after they wanted to observe traditional religious festivity in Java district.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry has condemned “kidnapping of civilians by the representatives of the Russian occupational forces.” It called on Russia on June 20 “to immediately and unconditionally release kidnapped Georgian citizens.”
Authorities in breakaway South Ossetia said that four citizens of Georgia were arrested on June 18 close to the village of Koz in Java district, north-western part of the breakaway region. Six other Georgian citizens were arrested at the same place on June 19, the breakaway region’s authorities said. They also said that the Georgian citizens were “1.5 kilometer deep into the South Ossetian state border.”
All ten detained men are local residents of Gari, village in the Oni district of the Racha region on the South Ossetian administrative border. Locals in the village say that several of their co-villagers went to observe traditional, annual religious festivity and others were detained when followed to find out whereabouts of the four local residents.
Festivity, known as Sajvareoba, involves horse riding by local male population of the village of Gari towards a site believed by locals to be a sacred place in the mountainous area of Java district; the event has been an old tradition observed by the locals annually. The celebration takes place eight week after the Orthodox Easter with believers staying at the site overnight and leaving the place next morning. But after the August, 2008 war observing the tradition became increasing difficult for the locals from the village of Gari.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said that “kidnapping of civilians by the Russian occupation regime was further disturbing” because of the fact that locals were gathered to mark the religious celebration.
“Georgians and Ossetians have been marking this celebration together for centuries,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.