Man held as slave for 15 years

12_1.jpgA Russian man held captive for 15 years in Georgia, where he was allegedly used as a slave, was handed over to Russia by Abkhazian security services. Vladimir Obidin, 68, was detained March 6 in a village after he crossed the border between Georgia and its breakaway republic of Abkhazia. According to Abkhazia’s security services chief Yuri Akshuba, this is not the first time when escaped captives have turned to them for help.The man did not have any documents and claimed to have spent the last 15 years on a private farm in Georgia’s Svanetia district, where he was held against his will and used as a farm hand. Several of his previous escape attempts failed and he was severely beaten by his captors, he said. After his identity was established, the man was transferred to Russian peacekeepers.

 

“There are a lot of captives being held in Svanetia, and I was among those slaves,” says Obidin. “I had to hide in the mountains, since there’s no other way out of there. Even if a police officer catches you, he will either keep you as a slave for himself or sell you to someone else. The slaves sell for 500, 100, or 130 lari (one Georgian lari is approximately $ 0.58)… Almost every second Svan acquires slaves, lured by deceit, like I was,” Obidin said.

 

According to Obidin’s own account, related by the kavkaz-uzel.ru website, he regularly visited Georgia in the period from 1987 to 1992, taking odd-jobs on farms in the country’s Gardabansky district.

“One of my employers took my passport and refused to give it back,” Obidin said. “I did not get paid for my work and was forced to live in a cowshed. I was strictly forbidden to leave the farm,” he says.

 

Obidin made several escape attempts but on each occasion he was caught and violently “disciplined.” “There were but few opportunities for outside contacts,” Obidin says. “During the years spent in Svanetia, I had several passing contacts with fellow captives. Such slaves are held in almost every Svanetian family.

 

We could meet only during work in the field or while tending our ‘masters’ cattle.” According to Obidin, he saw captives of all ages and nationalities, including Russians, Ukrainians, Azerbaijani, Armenians, and even a citizen from Poland.

“What the owners do first and foremost, is to seize their captives’ documents,” Obidin said. “If the captive is elderly, they draw a pension in their name and then keep it for themselves. For our slave labor we were paid only in food and tobacco.”

 

Last year, Obidin finally managed to escape from Svanetia and hid in the woods in the daytime and made his journey by night. Several days later, he made it to Georgia’s Zugdidi region where he stayed until late February 2007, working for several Georgian families. On February 25, he crossed into Abkhazia, Georgia’s breakaway republic that houses Russian peacekeepers.

 

Source: The Moscow News

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