April 10 has been declared as the national day of mourning over the death of four Gali district Georgians, that drowned while swimming the Enguri River to reach Tbilisi-controlled territory from occupied Abkhazia on April 7.
Expressing condolences to the families of the deceased, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili and the Foreign Ministry said earlier that the Russian Federation, as the occupying power, is responsible for the drowning of ethnic Georgian majority Gali district residents. Kremlin-backed Abkhaz authorities have effectively closed the Enguri crossing point since late February 2020, citing COVID pandemic fears.
Critics of the Georgian Government say, on the other hand, that Tbilisi-imposed five-day COVID quarantine for arrivals from the occupied region was also to blame for the tragedy.
President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili and the Foreign Ministry said today that the Russian Federation, as the occupying power, is responsible for the drowning of three Gali district residents, that tried to swim Enguri river to leave Abkhazia to Georgia proper.
“The complete responsibility for today’s tragedy lies with the occupation regime,” stated President Zurabishvili. The Georgian President said it is alarming that restrictions on free movement are costing the lives of Abkhazia residents, who are trying to “overcome” the consequences of the severe humanitarian crisis in the region.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, on its part, that the incident clearly illustrates the “human cost” of Russian occupation, also the “unbearable living conditions and the severe security and humanitarian situation on the ground.” “Residents of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region have turned into the hostages of Russian occupation for years,” the Ministry underlined.
The Georgian authorities said the Gali locals took the river route to avoid being detained by the occupying forces for crossing the dividing line on the ground, through the crossing point. The movement between the occupied region and Tbilisi-controlled territory is largely restricted by the Kremlin-backed Abkhaz since February 2020, soon after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.