Saturday 24th of August 2019, 19:08 CET
Russian peacekeeper freed after abduction in Georgia
October 1, 2003
Associated Press

Posted by HW on August 24, 2019

Peacekeeper
A Russian peacekeeper who was abducted in neighboring Georgia last week was released Wednesday, officials said.

Common efforts
The soldier, Grigory Derevyannik, was freed through joint efforts by Commonwealth of Independent States peacekeepers and Georgian law enforcement authorities, said Col. Viktor Kondratenko, deputy commander of a Russian peacekeeping unit serving in Georgia under the auspices of the commonwealth, a grouping of former Soviet republics.

Second kidnap
Kondratenko, reached on his cellular phone near Georgia's separatist Abkhazia region, declined to give details but said the release was aided by the father of another man who was abducted in the area last week, Levan Changelia, an election coordinator working for a Georgian opposition party. Changelia's father threatened to commit suicide if Derevyannik was not freed.

Possible link
Kondratenko's comments suggested a link between the two abductions, and Russia's Interfax news agency reported Wednesday that an operation to free Changelia was under way.

Suspection
Georgian authorities said Sunday that it appeared four armed people seized Derevyannik on Friday in Zugdidi, about 330 kilometers (205 miles) northwest of the capital Tbilisi. The headquarters of the Russian peacekeeping unit has said it suspected Georgian fighters or criminals abducted him in a bid to force the release of their abducted comrades.

Minor injure
Derevyannik's arm was injured when he put up resistance against his abductors, Kondratenko said. He said no exchange was made for his release.
Derevyannik was serving in Abkhazia, a Black Sea province that won de facto independence from Georgia in 1993 after a two-year war that forced 300,000 ethnic Georgians from their homes.

Friction
Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in the tense region that unofficially divides Georgia and Abkhazia since early 1994, and their presence has been a source of constant friction between Russia and Georgia. Georgian officials have repeatedly accused them of siding with separatists and failing to help ethnic Georgian refugees return to their homes in Abkhazia.
 
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