Russian-backed troops 'move disputed border in Georgia'www.dailymail.co.uk - Julian Robinson For Mailonline
Russian-backed troops have moved a disputed border by shifting barbed-wire markers in night-time land raids that threaten to swallow up villages in Georgia, it has been claimed.
Entire communities have been cut in two after sudden border shifts in what some have described as a creeping occupation backed by President Vladimir Putin.
The so-called 'borderization' has been taking place along the boundary between Georgia and the breakaway region of South Ossetia, which is recognised by Moscow as an independent state.
America and its Western allies sees such acts as land-grabbing in violation of international law.
It comes nearly a decade after war erupted between Russia and Georgia over the territory and another breakaway region, Abkhazia.
Russian troops have moved a disputed border by shifting barbed-wire markers in night-time land raids that threaten to swallow up villages in Georgia, it has been claimed. It comes nearly a decade after war erupted (pictured) between Russia and Georgia over the territory and another breakaway region, Abkhazia
Russia and Georgia fought a war in August 2008 over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. Moscow continues to garrison troops there and to support another breakaway region, Abkhazia, after recognising both regions as independent states
According to the Heritage Foundation, a US-based conservative think tank, there have been more than 50 instances of borderization along the 260-mile Georgia-South Ossetia frontier in the last seven years alone, NBC News reports.
A local dance teacher, named Nikolos Korashvili, said his brother woke a few years ago to find the border had been changed overnight and cut through his property.
Others have simply abandoned their homes on the border over fears they will be swallowed up in to South Ossetia, according to NBC News.
A farmer called Vasya said he was no longer able to visit his local church because land between it and his home had been seized.
South Ossetia claims to be an independent state, but is only recogised by the likes of Russian ally Syria, Venezuela, Nicaragua and the tiny Pacific island of Nauru.
Last year its President Anatoly Bibilov pledged to hold a referendum on whether it should join Russia, but this has yet to take place. The region is said to receive subsidies from the Kremlin.
Entire communities have been cut in two after sudden border shifts in what many have described as a creeping occupation backed by President Vladimir Putin (pictured)
US officials have insisted their support for Georgia, a country of just 3.7million that hopes to join NATO, is 'unwavering' and said it backs the country in calling out Russia 'on the continued violation' of its 'sovereignty and territorial integrity'.
But locals who spoke to NBC News said they fear for their futures and cn do 'nothing to protect ourselves'.
'What can you do against Russia? They do whatever they can,' one is quoted as saying.
Mediation involving the US, Georgia, the two breakaway regions and Russia is taking place in Geneva - but there has been little progress so far.
Night Wolves biker gang linked to Putin and led by activist known as The Surgeon who helped Russia annex Crimea moves to Slovakia
A Russian Nationalist biker gang with close ties to PresidentVladimir Putin has set up a base in Slovakia, a move which has alarmed the local government.
Slovak President Andrej Kiska warned that the Night Wolves, who supported Russian troops during the annexation of Crimea in the Ukraine in 2014, are a security risk to NATO and the EU.
The bikers, led by a former doctor known as Alexander 'The Surgeon' Zaldostanov, have taken over an old pig farm, 44 miles northeast of the Slovak capital Bratislava.
New neighbours: The Night Wolves Russian biker gang, led by Alexander 'The Surgeon' Zaldostanov, have taken over a former pig farm 44 miles from the Slovak capital Bratislava
Friends of the leader: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and Alexander 'The Surgeon' Zaldostanov ride motorcycles together in 2011
After officially opening their Slovak branch in June the Night Wolves have held military-style exercises with the Slovak Recruits, a 200-strong nationalist paramilitary group, on the compound.
'They are no harmless motorcycle lovers,' President Kiska said in a statement according to Radio Free Europe.
'The Night Wolves are a tool of a regime that took part in the usurpation of a territory of a neighbouring country [of Slovakia], in the annexation of parts of Ukraine in violation of international law.
'The establishment of a so-called European headquarters of the Night Wolves in Slovakia is a mockery of the Slovak Republic's official position on the annexation of Crimea and Russian policies.'
The Night Wolves' new Slovakian base has been painted in camouflage and is surrounded by a barbed-wire fence.
The Russian bikers sat they intend to turn it into a museum honouring Soviet WWII units, and signs on the building claims it will open in September.
Putin fans: A member of the Night Wolves is seen inside the gang's base in Luhansk, Ukraine
While generally regarded as a satellite state of the USSR, Slovakia - then part of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was never officially part of the Soviet Union.
'In Slovakia they pay homage to the heroes who liberated the world from fascism, so the creation of the museum complex, dedicated to the events of World War Two, is logical, legitimate and desirable,' Zaldostanov said in a statement seen by the BBC.
Jozef Hambalek, founder of the Slovak branch of the Night Wolves, said denied any political motivation behind his creation of the Slovak chapter of Russia's Night Wolves.
'I am only interested in motorcycles and military history,' he said.
The Night Wolves are closely linked to President Putin, who has joined the bikers several times at rallies, riding a Harley-Davidson trike, and called them his 'friends.'
In 2013, he awarded Zaldostanov the Russian Medal of Honour and has praised him for his loyalty.
Putin's pulpit pals: Zaldostanov is seen speaking to Putin in Sevastopol, during the President's trip to Crimea in August last year
The Night Wolves have been under U.S. sanctions since 2014 for its role in the pro-Russian separatist insurgency in Ukraine and the subsequent annexation of Crimea.
In March, Zaldostanov and Sasa Savic, the leader of the club's branch in Serbia, were banned from entering Bosnia because of security concerns, and in 2015 the Night Wolves were refused entry to Poland.
Zaldostanov, born in Soviet Ukraine, studied medicine in his youth and practiced as an assistant surgeon but is not thought to have graduated medical school.
He became involved in biker culture in the 80s and founded the Night Wolves in 1989, just before the fall of the USSR. The gang has around 5,000 members across the former Soviet Union.
Only this week, Georgia's president denounced Russia for illegally occupying part of the country as it began two weeks of military exercises with the United States and several other NATO members.
About 1,300 soldiers from Georgia, 1,170 from the United States and several hundred from eight other NATO member states joined in manoeuvres falling just a few days before the 10th anniversary of Georgia's war with Russia.
Washington dispatched a mechanised company, including twelve Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, five M1A2 Abrams tanks and nine Blackhawk and Apache helicopters. Non-NATO Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan also sent soldiers.
President Giorgi Margvelashvili, at an opening ceremony, said: 'Today you are standing on the territory of a country, twenty percent of which is absolutely illegally occupied by our neighbour Russia.'
Only this week, Georgia's president denounced Russia for illegally occupying part of the country as it began two weeks of military exercises (pictured) with the United States and several other NATO members
About 1,300 soldiers from Georgia, 1,170 from the United States and several hundred from eight other NATO member states joined in manoeuvres falling just a few days before the 10th anniversary of Georgia's war with Russia
Russia and Georgia fought a war in August 2008 over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. Moscow continues to garrison troops there and to support another breakaway region, Abkhazia, after recognising both regions as independent states.
The 'Noble Partner' exercises are being held in Georgia for the fourth time. Russian officials have not commented on the event yet, but in previous years Moscow warned that drills could destabilise the region, a charge denied by Georgian officials.
The exercises were being run from the Vaziani military base near Georgia's capital, Tbilisi.
Russian forces used to be based there until they withdrew at the start of the last decade under the terms of a European arms reduction agreement.
Russia is also conducting its own military exercises in the North Caucasus region, which borders Georgia. The Russian drills, which started on Wednesday, are set to continue until August 15.