U.S. Embassy Statement on the Sentencing of Zaza Gakheladze

U.S. Embassy Tbilisi condemns the sentencing of Georgian citizen Zaza Gakheladze to 12 years and six months in prison, after Russian-led security actors shot and detained him nearly seven months ago along the South Ossetia administrative boundary line.  We reiterate that the dangerous Russian actions taken to wound and detain Mr. Gakheladze would not have occurred if Russia had fulfilled its obligation under the 2008 ceasefire agreement to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions.  Today’s sentencing is yet another example of Russia’s attempts to illegally control and exploit the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Russian actions threaten the lives, human rights, culture, and personal freedoms of people living in and near these Georgian territories, and deny them the ability to exercise rights and access opportunities that should be available to all Georgian citizens.  Russia must reverse its recognition of the so-called independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and fulfill its obligation under the 2008 ceasefire agreement to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions and its commitment to provide unfettered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. We express solidarity with Mr. Gakheladze and his family, and all families who have had to endure Russia’s oppressive occupation.