Georgia releases Russian reporters

Two Russian journalists from the state-owned Rossiya TV channel, detained by Georgian police in the area disputed with the country's breakaway republic of South Ossetia, have been released.

The team from Russia's flagship channel were working on a story about peacekeepers who have been deployed in the area for the last 15 years.

Andrey Chistyakov and Igor Sturit, his cameraman, were detained even though being accompanied by representatives of the peacekeeping force which patrols the area.

Later the journalists were handed over to the embassy’s counsellor Valery Vasiliev.

Andrey Chistyakov said they were released after making written statements asked by officials.

“Now our film crew, I and my cameraman Igor Sturit are in the Russian embassy in Tbilisi. As you see, we are fine. We are waiting to see what happens to us next. Our filming day today started in Tskhinvali.  We came to the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone to collect materials about the 15th year since peacekeeping forces entered the region. The day before, we had met with the commanders of the joint forces and explained that we wanted to film the work of combined block-posts in the conflict zone and then we intended to take a look at the everyday life of peacekeepers in the region. We received instructions from the press service that we later worked with. This morning we took off accompanied by a press service officer and two officers from a Georgian and Ossetian battalion. I will remind you that here they have a tri-lateral battalion: Russian, Georgian and Ossetian. They keep peace in the region. So having three representatives – one from each side – we took off to the northern outskirts of Tskhinvali. After we crossed the border of Tamarasheni village, we were stopped by people in uniform. They asked us who we were and asked to see the proof of identity, and finally we arrived here in Tbilisi. On our way here we didn’t talk to those escorting us. They only asked if our camera was on, it wasn’t. This was because we came to shoot the everyday life of peacekeeping check-points – not to make any hidden camera recordings. Here in Tbilisi several officials talked to us and asked us to make written statements. We did what they asked. And we were released within several hours,” Andrey Chistyakov commented.

Before leaving the Russian consulate in Tbilisi to return to South Ossetia, the journalists expressed relief at their release.