The relatives of Soso Osurauli, a Georgian pilot being held captive by rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, held a protest in the village of Kvemo Alvani in eastern Georgia on 24 May. The protesters were demanding that the government release details of Osurauli’s precise location.
Blogger Davit Nemsadze first revealed Osurauli’s capture on his Facebook page on 22 February, demanding that the government help in securing his release.
According to Georgia’s Public Broadcaster, rebels shot down two Congolese military helicopters in the Democratic Republic of Congo on 27 January; Osurauli was one of the pilots and was captured by rebels. Georgian daily Resonansi wrote that the rebels are demanding $1 million for his release.
Osurauli’s relatives have accused the government of not taking enough steps to secure his release.
‘The family has been waiting for answers for four months, but they haven’t received any. I feel insulted because they pay large amounts of money to hold concerts, while our citizen is in captivity and we cannot rescue him’, Soso Babulaidze, one of the participants of the rally told journalists. He called for other participants to ‘use all kinds of measures’ to rescue Osurauli.
On 24 May Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Zviad Gonadze held a press-conference in which he spoke of reports of attacks in Congo, warning Georgian citizens to avoid travelling there. He also said that Osurauli may be among the casualties of those attacks.
‘We call for the citizens of Georgia in the Democratic Republic of Congo to leave immediately’, he added.
He said that ongoing military confrontations in DR Congo complicate Osurauli’s possible rescue, but promised that the government would do everything they could to help secure his release.
Koba Osurauli, Soso Osurauli’s brother, told Georgian media outlet Reginfo that the ministry shouldn’t have released unconfirmed reports and should have taken more efforts to save his brother.
‘We had evidence that he was alive and in captivity. If he is dead they should provide us with evidence. They shouldn’t have reported about his alleged death without any evidence. My brother has a mother, wife and four children in Georgia. It’s not right to report such information just like this’, he said.
Osurauli is a former pilot in the Georgian Army, where he served during the 2008 War in South Ossetia. According to local news outlet Kakheti News, Osurauli flew Georgia’s final flight of the war, rescuing two Georgian battalions.
According to the Ministry of Defence, Osurauli left the army in 2015 after taking up an offer to train Congolese military pilots.