The needs of people living along the occupation line (Kaspi municipality villages: Vake, Zadiantkari, Saribari)

On January 27, researchers of the Democracy Research Institute got information about the needs of the residents of Vake, Saribari and Zadiantkari villages of the Kvemo Chala and Kodistskaro communities. The villages, located near the occupation line, are populated by ethnically Ossetian citizens.

According to the 2014 census, 86 people live in the village of Vake of the Kvemo Chala community. Drainage channels and internal roads are currently being constructed in the settlement. The interviewed respondents say that efforts were launched to solve the problem of drinking water in the village about 2 years ago, though the village still faces the problem of both drinking and irrigation water. The local population is concerned that the drinking water supply is often discontinued and insufficient. The situation is particularly difficult in summer, when the water level drops due to the drought. The lack of water increases women’s household labour.

Although the village is close to the occupation line, none of the nine respondents speak about security-related fears. They say they know where the occupation line is and they do not cross it. The village enjoys the status of a mountainous settlement. Accordingly, the villagers receive GEL 200 vouchers for natural gas in winter. They also enjoy benefits for electricity, but they say they mainly use firewood for heating. Apart from potable water, respondents complained about unemployment and unpromising environment for the youth in the settlement.

According to the 2014 census, 37 people live in Zadiantkari, a village of the Kodistskaro community, which is the closest to the dividing line. To get to the village, it is necessary to pass the Karafila police checkpoint. After checking the documents, we were escorted by a police car for security reasons.

There are many abandoned houses in Zadiantkari. Some of them are almost ruined. Some of the light poles on the rural road, which is not asphalted, are fallen apart.

The barbed wires are erceted along the Zadiantkari fields. The so-called border military base (Orchosani) of the Russian Federation is located a few meters away. The three interviewed respondents did not speak about the problems in the settlement, showed distrust and asked us not to record the conversation. They explained that although there was a problem of drinking water in the village, the problem was already being “solved”. We have an impression that they have not realized the occupation-related problem. They, with barbed wires near them, said that they were not afraid of the Russian military and "live in peace." They also said that their cattle had crossed the “border” several times, but they had been sent back. They also emphasized that no one from their village had been detained by the Russian military.

According to the 2014 census, 19 people live in the village of Saribari, located near the dividing line in the Kodistskaro community. Like Zadiantkari, almost every second house is abandoned in this village too. The road leading to the village is not asphalted, the settlement has a problem of drinking water. We talked with four locals about their difficulties. All of them say that the work will be soon launched and that they expect that the problem of drinking water will be solved and the road will be constructed. The locals also want that there be children's small playground in the village.

They explain that they have no security problems and feel safe. The respondents are dissatisfied with the work of the media and say that journalists often disseminate false information about them. ‘It is the same now, as it was before. When debtors kill each other in Ergneti, they do not mention the debt story, but say that Ossetians and Georgians fought with each other. It’s the same now. I'm Ossetian and I am proud of it. We, people, have no this problem with each other. Those on the ‘border’ do not arrest anybody. If you do not want to be arrested, do not cross it!’- one of the respondents said.

The settlement is also characterized by poverty, lack of water, road problems and distrust of respondents. Locals try to avoid answering questions. They explain that nothing will be resolved by talking about problems, and on the contrary, a new problem will emerge.

Visits to the villages of Kaspi municipality - Vake, Zadiantkari and Saribari, were made possible with the financial assistance of the European Endowment for Democracy (EED).

The report includes the views of respondents, which do not express and should not be perceived as the stance of the Democracy Research Institute.