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TSKHINVALI, Georgia — A Georgian physician who was arrested by Russian border guards in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia in November has gone on trial for “illegally crossing the border” to treat a patient.

A court in the separatist-controlled region started a preliminary hearing into the case against Vazha Gaprindashvili, on December 12.

Gaprindashvili was detained on November 9 when he crossed the administrative boundary with the breakaway region to provide a patient with medical assistance.

His lawyer, Vladimir Fidarov, told RFE/RL that the court in the town of Alkhagori, which the separatist government calls Leninogorsk, has refused to satisfy a defense request to release Gaprindashvili on his own recognizance.

The doctor insists that he did not break any laws, as South Ossetia is Georgian territory. According to the separatist government-imposed regulations, Gaprindashvili faces up to two years in prison.

Moscow has recognized South Ossetia and Georgia’s other separatist region, Abkhazia, as independent states after the five-day Georgian-Russian War in August 2008.

Russian troops are now stationed in the two regions, while Georgia and most of the international community consider both regions to be occupied territories.

The trial will resume on December 20.