Russian `escapes slavery in Georgia`
Kirillov says he is a former Russian serviceman who was based near the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
Following the withdrawal of troops from the country, he retired but decided to stay and raise money in Georgia before returning home to central Russia.
He went to Svaneti, a mountainous area, which is, in fact, the highest inhabited region in Europe and the home to the Svans, an ancient mountain people with a language and culture distinct from the rest of Georgia.
“I was offered a job and I went to western Georgia to take care of a household, of animals and a vegetable garden. After a year had passed I demanded my money, but they beat me. They even threatened to kill me. I had to sleep with the cows even in wintertime,” Kirillov said.
There are lots of such people he says. Most of them are Russians and Ukrainians.
“Some owners do not give food to their slaves. A man told me one disobedient worker was thrown into a river. The Georgian authorities know about such things. The police know about such things but they turn a blind eye to them,” he continued.
Kirillov says he spent four years there and ran away when his owner died. On his escape Kirillov came upon a group of Russian peacekeepers who patrol the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone, adjacent to Svaneti.
“I walked some 40 kilometres and a passing car brought me to a peacekeepers' outpost,” he said, describing his escape.
Kirillov is now in Sukhumi, the capital of Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia. The Georgian authorities say they know nothing about the case.
“Neither the peacekeepers nor this man has contacted us about this case. If anyone does contact us, then we will do everything possible to investigate and punish any guilty parties,” commented Shota Utiashvili, Head of the Interior Ministry's analytical department.
Kidnapping used to be a severe problem in Svaneti, but no cases have been reported since 2004, after a government crackdown.
The authorities have launched an aggressive anti-human trafficking strategy, but the problem persists.
“Trafficking is not just a problem in Georgia. It's a worldwide problem. Georgia meets international standards when it comes to dealing with this issue. Reports of human trafficking are immediately investigated and appropriate measures are taken,” said Baia Romelashvili, trafficking expert at the Georgian Ombudsman's office.