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Georgian volunteer fighter sentenced to life by Donetsk court

21 February 2024
Mamuka Gatserelia in Russian captivity. Image via Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office.

A court in Russian-occupied Donetsk has sentenced a Georgian fighting for Ukraine to life imprisonment for killing three Russian soldiers while defending the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

On Tuesday, Russia’s General Prosecutor’s Office announced that Georgian citizen Mamuka Gatserelia, 22, was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of attacking Russian soldiers and participating in an armed conflict as a mercenary. 

Gatserelia signed up as a volunteer fighter in Ukraine in March 2022 and was captured by Russian forces following Ukraine’s defeat in the siege of Azovstal in May of that year, according to Voice of America.

Once captured, Russia accused Gatserelia of opening fire at four Russian soldiers, killing three of them, in April 2022.

‘While in a multi-storey building, he opened fire on four Russian soldiers, three of whom were killed, and one managed to survive’, Russia’s Prosecutor’s General stated.

On Tuesday, Russia’s Investigative Committee published a 36-second video of Gatserelia admitting to killing the Russian soldiers. A person behind the camera asks the young soldier if he regretted the incident, to which Gatserelia says ‘yes’.

On Wednesday, Gatserelia’s mother, Dali Chkheidze, told RFE/RL that she had received a call from her son the day before his trial.


‘He called me from prison and told me that he has a trial tomorrow. [He said] “don’t worry, they are treating me well” ’, said Chkheidze. ‘It seems like [the prison guards] were telling him what to say; I don’t think he is in good condition because you saw in the picture what [condition] the child is’.

On Tuesday, Chkheidze claimed to have contacted the authorities in Kyiv but was told that they were unable to assist her because Gatserelia was not a Ukrainian national.

‘We appealed to the Red Cross and the Public Defender in Georgia, we called the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and they told us that [the case] is being considered and  [they] will give an answer, but there is nothing yet’, she said, also vowing to try to reach out to the Russian authorities in a bid to secure her son’s release.

Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not commented on Gatserelia’s sentencing but had in November 2023 vowed to protect the rights of two other Georgian fighters captured by Russia in Ukraine.

The ministry did not respond to OC Media’s request for comment.

Read in Armenian on CivilNet.
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