A Georgian man was shot dead by Russian troops along the South Ossetia borderline late on November 6.
Georgian TV stations reported that two residents of the village of Kirbali were visiting a church on the borderline when they were approached by Russian/South Ossetian border troops.
They shot Tamaz Ginturi, 58, multiple times, killing him, and detained Levan Dotiashvili, 33, taking him to jail in the de facto capital Tskhinvali.
Ginturi's body was later recovered by Georgian law enforcement.
After the incident, the Georgian State Security Service convened a meeting with Russian representatives and the EU Monitoring Mission whose unarmed monitors patrol areas along the borderline. It said it demanded that Dotiashvili be released and that Ginturi's killers be punished.
South Ossetia's de facto Foreign Ministry released a statement claiming that the two men had "displayed an extreme level of aggression towards the servicemen of the border guard and posed a threat to their life and health."
Georgian TV stations reported that Ginturi was a veteran of the 2008 Georgia-Russia war, which was fought mainly in and around South Ossetia.
In remarks to Mtavari TV, one fellow resident of Kirbali speculated that Ginturi might have resisted detention instead of risking sharing the fate ot Archil Tatunashvili, another Georgian veteran arrested for allegedly crossing into South Ossetia who was later reportedly tortured to death in separatist custody.
The killing drew swift condemnation from the U.S., the EU, and a range of individual politicians in the West.
On the domestic political front, the Georgian opposition seized on the incident to criticize the ruling Georgian Dream party's stance on Russia, which has been oriented toward appeasement, particularly since Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year.
"This is the result of Georgian Dream's policy of supposedly having peace in the country. We can all see what kind of peace there is in reality. In any case, as long as we are weak, as long as our policy is to not antagonize Russia and to be on our knees, this will continue as usual," Zurab Girchi Japaridze, head of the Girchi - More Freedom Party, told Mtavari TV in a comment broadly representative of the opposition's sentiment.
The incident occurred on the eve of the planned release of a European Commission report that is to recommend whether or not Georgia should be granted EU membership candidate status.
A fluid borderline
The borderline is manned jointly by border guards of Russia's State Security Service (FSB) and border guards of Russian-backed South Ossetia's State Security Committee (KGB).
They regard the line as a "state border" between Georgia and South Ossetia, though they have a fluid understanding of where that border should be, given their well-documented practice of arbitrarily moving border fences deeper and deeper into Georgia. The process is known in Georgia as "creeping occupation" or "creeping annexation."
Georgia considers South Ossetia its integral part and recognizes not a state border but an "occupation line." Under Georgian law, South Ossetia, and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, are occupied by Russia. Georgian media tend not to make a distinction between Russian and Abkhaz/South Ossetian forces and instead refer to them jointly as "forces of the occupation regime."
Russian/South Ossetian forces routinely detain Georgians for "illegal border crossing." There have been about 1,500 cases since 2008, according to Georgian State Security Service statistics cited by RFE/RL.
Most are released after paying fines though some cases are protracted and subjected to political wrangling. Ginturi's killing is the second by Russian/South Ossetian forces, after the Archil Tatunashvili case in 2018. In 2016, a Georgian man named Giorgi Otkhozoria was killed by an Abkhaz border guard as he, Otkhozoria, stood in Georgian territory.
RFE/RL said in a video feature this August that residents of Kirbali are particularly frequently subjected to harassment by Russian/South Ossetian forces, who have not erected any fences or border markers nearby. The report estimated that at least 30 of the village's 150-some residents have been detained at one point or another.