US Mission to OSCE Condemns Russia’s Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Occupied Abkhazia

The United States mission to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) released a statement on Thursday condemning the destruction of a registered historical site near the village of Tsebelda, Gulripshi district of Georgia’s separatist Abkhazia region.

The US mission report states that the destruction by Russian forces on January 3, in order to prepare the area for a military firing range for its Southern Military District’s 7th brigade, is in contravention of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

“The site consisted of ruins dating from the 8th and 9th centuries and the late Middle Ages, as well as a 20th century cemetery.  All of these elements of the cultural heritage of Georgia and the Caucasus were irretrievably lost,” the statement reads.

It continues to say that Russia’s continued occupation of Georgia’s Abkhaz and South Ossetian regions is unacceptable. It calls on Russia, as a party to the conflict, to fulfill its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, including by withdrawing all its forces to pre-conflict positions, providing unhindered access for humanitarian assistance, and reversing its unilateral recognition of these Georgian regions as independent states.  

“We unequivocally support Georgia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, as well as its aspirations to integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions,” the statement of the mission reads.

The announcement by de-facto Abkhaz authorities of the closure of two controlled crossing points along the Abkhaz administrative boundary line at Nabakevi-Khurcha and Otobaia-Orsantia by the end of this month was also addressed, as it could potentially restrict the freedom of movement, including of schoolchildren and patients requiring medical treatment.  

“We are also concerned that de-facto Abkhaz authorities intend to create an enlarged “border zone” along the Abkhaz administrative boundary line, requiring special permits to enter, which would further hinder movement,” the statement reads.

The statement concludes by reiterating the United States’ belief in the importance of meaningful OSCE presence in Georgia.

Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) also released a statement on January 10, accusing the Russian Federation of destroying Georgian cultural monuments on the territories of the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The MFA said that Russia’s actions are directed against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, and called on the Russian Federation to desist from the practice of destroying Georgian cultural monuments in the occupied territories.

Georgia’s President, Giorgi Margvelashvili, also condemned Russia’s actions. He said this was “deliberate “act of vandalism in violation of international law, including the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.”


by Thea Morrison

21 January 2017 16:15