Ekho Kavkaza reported on January 6 that a church built near a Polish cemetery in the 19th century and listed as a cultural heritage site was demolished by Russian troops with a bulldozer on January 3. The damage was done when Russian troops were clearing the way for a training ground in the village of Tsebelda, Abkhazia. Experts have declared that the church cannot be restored.
Russia recognized Abkhazia and another separatist region, South Ossetia, as independent countries after fighting a five-day war against Georgia in 2008. Moscow maintains military troops in both regions still today, occupying more than 20% of territory of Republic of Georgia.
Georgia’s President, Giorgi Margvelashvili, condemned Russia’s actions and called for international attention on the issue:
“It is a deliberate act of vandalism that grossly violates the norms of international law, including the terms of the 1954 Hague Convention.
“We call on the international community, UNESCO and other international organizations to adequately assess the illegal actions carried by the Russian Federation on the territory of Georgia and react on them accordingly,” the President’s statement reads.
Apsnypress, the Abkhazian media agency published a statement of the Abkhaz Foreign Ministry:
“Considering that cooperation between the defense ministries of Abkhazia and Russia is based on a solid legal basis, the outrage of authorities in Tbilisi is completely incomprehensible.
“We call on the Georgian side to stop politicize any facts related to the state of the monuments and other cultural property situated within the territory of the Republic of Abkhazia.” – The commentary says.
Sputnik, the Russian news agency, reported that Russia’s Defense Ministry had denied all allegations over the issue.
“We were surprised by the remarks. No construction or any other work in the interest of Russia’s 7th military base has been carried out or planned in the village of Tsebelda,” the Russian Defense Ministry claimed.