Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has strongly condemned the demolition of the 19th century church and the Polish cemetery in breakaway Abkhazia by Russian troops as “an act of deliberate vandalism” and called on the international community “for adequate reaction.”
RFE/RL’s Russian-language Ekho Kavkaza reported on January 6 that the ruins of the church built near the Polish cemetery in the 19th century and listed as the cultural heritage site by authorities in Sukhumi was demolished with a bulldozer on January 3. The territory located in the village of Tsebelda in Gulripshi district of breakaway Abkhazia was handed over to Russian border guards for building a shooting range. According to the same report, although demolition works have been suspended and the breakaway region’s government is working to find a solution, experts say that the church cannot be restored.
In a statement released on January 10, President Margvelashvili expressed “extreme concern” over “the destruction of the historical heritage site in the village of Tsebelda by the Russian Federation’s occupation forces.”
“The Russian Federation’s armed forces have demolished the 19th century church and the Polish cemetery in order to build a shooting range there. It is a deliberate act of vandalism that grossly violates the norms of international law, including the terms of the 1954 Hague Convention,” Margvelashvili said.
“We call on the international community, UNESCO and other international organizations to adequately assess the illegal actions carried by the Russian Federation on the territory of Georgia and react on them accordingly,” the President’s statement reads.
In a statement released on January 10, the Georgian Foreign Ministry called on the Russian Federation “to halt the practice of damaging and destructing the cultural monuments in the occupied territories.”
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns yet another fact of damaging the historical and cultural heritage sites of Georgia by Russian occupation forces as an act against the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement reads.
“This illegal act again points at the grave humanitarian and military situation in Georgia’s occupied territories,” MFA added.