Russian soldiers dig up the graves of Georgians in Ablkhazia

Rusiko Amirejibi-Mullen r.amirejibi-mullen at
Mon Nov 10 10:58:32 UTC 2008

Gali Georgians demand gravesites not dug-up by Russian Army
Nana Pazhava, Zugdidi
HRIDC , November 7
Almost the entire perimeter of the border territory of  
Georgian-Abkhazian administrative border has been trenched for  
security. Russian military units continue constructing military  
facilities, to locate checkpoints, place gun installations and to dig  
a network of trenches. The local population seems to have adopted and  
reinforced a regime of occupation that is supported by separatists in  
the various Georgian villages in Abkhazia and near administrative  
border. However, in this process grave sites are disturbed and the  
occupying Russian troops defiled the graves of their Georgian  
ancestors. It appears that for the most part the graves have survived  
the network of trenches, as the Russians backed down on their original  
intentions because the local residents demanded Russian soldiers not  
to do this as it was not respecting their (Georgians?) memories.  
Russian military units tried to dig up Georgian graves in a total of  
three villages of Gali district-Pichori, Nabakevi and Zemo Barghebi.  
The Human Rights Center was able to access photos of the villages of  
Pichori and Gagidi where Russian soldiers have completed a serious of  
trenches.A resident of the village of Pichori recalls the day when  
Georgian people defended the graves of those who came before at the  
village cemetery. The interviewees declined from revealing their  
identity because they might be perused by the Russians and  
separatists.As one respondent, said but who did not want to share his  
name, ?The cemetery is close to the village center. On that day, a  
neighbor woman told us that military vehicle of Russian soldiers  
approached the cemetery and intended to start digging fortifications.  
Five days before the Russians really warned us to remove our graves  
from the area because they wanted to start with their trenches there.  
However, we did not expect them to actually do what they claimed they  
had in mind.?About 15 of us gathered at the cemetery. We saw 6 Russian  
soldiers there. One of them was apparently, their leader as he was  
answering our questions. We asked them not to disturb the graves. We  
reminded them that we, Russians and Georgians were both Orthodox  
Christians and disturbing graves was a grave sin for anyone who was  
Christian. Luckily, they changed their mind. They saw that if they  
would carry though and disturb the graves people would reach very  
negatively and even revolt against them.?Even though the Pichora  
village cemeteries have been robbed for many years; most graves do not  
have iron fences the villagers continued burying their family on these  
looted cemeteries. It is noteworthy that many the IDPs from various  
districts of Abkhazia are buried here along side of the Pichorians  
themselves. This is because the deceased IDPs can not be buried in  
Ochamchire, Gudauta or Sokhumi- the districts of Abkhazia they  
actually come from. The IDPs of those deceased hope that one day they  
will be able to remove the bodies of their relatives from Pichora  
cemeteries back to their home town cemeteries and stop asking for  
graves for their deceased people. This is not the only instance when  
IDPs ?borrow? temporary places on cemeteries for their departed loved  
ones. Such kind of things has happened in other parts of Georgia as  
well.Because of the digging of Russian trenches and building of  
military facilities many agricultural plots and hazenut groves have  
been destroyed. Russian block-posts were built in Pichora center as  
well. A Pichorian lady speaks about it in details.?Russians  
strengthened their positions first in centre of Pichora. About 60  
soldiers are stationed in the territory of a former tea processing  
factory. The soldiers have dug trenches all around the factory. A  
Georgian school is situated in 50 meters from the tea factory. 150  
pupils study in this school. Even though the Russians do not disturb  
them, the teachers and pupils themselves feel intimidated. It is  
difficult for them to concentrate on their studies when you are  
constantly intimidated and feel stressed out. However, the school  
children are trying to cope with the situation the best that they  
can.The Russians have set their second camp in close proximity to the  
Black Sea coast. Russians and Abkhazians were stationed in this area  
all together. They made very deep trenches there. Only the barrels of  
tank s and artillery can be seen when you look at the trenches. There  
was a big fight between Russian soldiers and Abkhaz militias in that  
camp, and one Abkhaz was wounded as a result. We heard that Abkhaz  
militias were moved from that camp as a result. They say only one  
Abkhaz is left. Meanwhile the Russians continue digging their  
trenches. There are a total of about 20 soldiers there.?Tornike  
Kilanava, the representative of Georgian Administration of Gali  
district says that the attempt of Russian soldiers to dig graves is  
vandalistic act and this is when Russians are trying to play the role  
of the dove of peace in regulating the Georgian-Abkhazian  
conflict.Tornike Kilanava: ?The fact that the Russians refrained from  
disturbing the graves of Georgians was simply an expression of good  
will on the part of Russian soldiers. This does not mean that they  
took into consideration our traditions and that is why they did not  
dig up the graves out of respect. It appears in his instance that  
Russians were scared that the locals would get very angry in reaction.  
They do not want to make people angry, especially now when they are  
trying to win people?s hearts and minds and go about pretending that  
they are real peacekeepers. Russians are constantly trying to convince  
the Gali district inhabitants that they are not invaders but the  
guarantors of their security.?
Tornike Kilanava confirms the information that additional Russian  
forces were deployed in Gali. However, he denies the information that  
was imparted through the Georgian media that so called ?Bargamian?s  
Battalion? (it is battalion which consisted mostly of Armenian  
soldiers). This battalion was involved in many war crimes during  
Georgian-Abkhazian war at the beginning of 1990s) and has been  
deployed to the Gali District. According to Georgian Administration of  
Gali District people with guns were brought to Gali District from  
Sokhumi in two buses several days ago. They are the employees of the  
anti-terrorism centre and there are many Armenians included among  
them. However, they have no connection with the real Bargamian?s  
Battalion.Tornike Kilanava: ?The head of the anti terrorist center is  
Iuri Anua. However, it is vague the aim of sending the anti-terrorist  
center representatives to the Gali District. Officially their  
responsibility is to tackle terrorists who might enter from Georgia;  
at least this is what they are claiming. However, their real aim is to  
bully Georgians, redistribute Georgian businesses in Gali district  
among each other and extort money. Those people who died in Gali  
district recently are the victims of criminal gang shoot outs.?Tornike  
Kilanava?s these comments irritated the Abkhazian separatist  
government. On November 5 the statements against Kilanava were posted  
on an Abkhazian website. Beslan Arshba, head of Abkhazian  
Administration of Gali District has accused the Georgian media in  
distributing false and misleading information.Beslan Arshba: ?The  
information that Russians soldiers are planning to build their  
military bases on cemeteries is totally false. He considers it as  
being but sheer nonsense and such a thing would never happen. Tornike  
Kilanava does not know what dignity is all about. He makes up such  
false stories out of revenge and distributes these stories through  
various journalists like himself.?Laurence Kogonia, the head of  
Abkhazian Police of Gali District confirms the fact that additional  
forces of Abkhazian security and Ministry of Internal Affairs of  
Abkhazia were deployed to the Gali District. He said it was caused by  
the possibility of Georgian sabotage acts has forced them to become  
more active. This is why he said Enguri Central Bridge was shut down  
on October 28 as a security precaution.

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