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Georgia demands release of doctor detained by separatists

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By Reuters
Georgia demands release of doctor detained by separatists
FILE PHOTO: An Ossetian flag is seen on a closed road at the de facto border of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia in Ergneti, Georgia, June 7, 2018. Picture taken June 7, 2018. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili/File Photo   -   Copyright  David Mdzinarishvili(Reuters)

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 centre 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 mobilised 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 fulfil 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 recognised 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)