Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cabinet Reshuffle in Georgia

Lado Chipashvili, the minister for healthcare, labor and social welfare, has been dismissed in a cabinet reshuffle, Dimitri Kitoshvili, the president’s spokesperson, said on August 29.

Chipashvili, he said, would be replaced by the current minister of environment, Davit Tkeshelashvili, whose position would in turn be filled by his deputy, Davit Chantladze.

Chipashvili will be appointed as Georgia’s ambassador to the Czech Republic. “The current ambassador to the Czech Republic, Kakha Sikharulidze, will be appointed to an important position in the Foreign Ministry,” Kitoshvili said. [More]

Russian peacekeepers released in Georgia

Eight Russian peacekeepers released by Georgian military police have now returned to their base. On Tuesday, they were arrested after their truck collided with a passenger bus near the Abkhazian border. [More]

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

NATO, Georgia to share radars in 2007

Georgia's radars will probably be integrated into NATO's radar system by the end of this year, earlier than planned because of worries about Russian activities, the Georgian Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

"Recent incidents prompted discussions in Brussels, at NATO headquarters, to speed up these procedures, so that Georgia is incorporated into that system as soon as possible," Georgian Deputy Defence Minister Batu Kuteliya told Reuters. "They should probably be finished late this autumn." [More]

Russia-Georgia dispute escalates

Just as relations between Russia and the post-Soviet nation of Georgia were improving from their nadir last year, a bizarre phantom air war this month has unleashed mutually hostile rhetoric and escalated tensions.

For almost a month, Georgia has complained that Russian fighter jets have made incursions into its airspace. Most recently, it said that its forces fired on an intruding Russian plane near the breakaway republic of Abkhazia last week. The republic, a Russian protectorate claimed by Georgia under international law, is a point of contention between the two countries.

But a top Russian general scoffed that his Georgian colleagues must be "hallucinating" since, he insisted, no Russian warplanes have flown anywhere near Georgia. Kremlin officials have repeatedly suggested that Georgian hard-liners, seeking a pretext for military action against Abkhazia and another rebel statelet, South Ossetia, may be "fabricating" the incidents. [More]

Monday, August 27, 2007

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Visits Georgia

Elmar Mammadyarov, the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, paid a two day visit to Batumi on 26 August, the Georgian Foreign Ministry announced. Cultural events will be organized in honour of the minister in Batumi. He will visit the autonomous republic of Ajaria and its capital Batumi.

On 27 August at 1pm the Government of Ajaria will host an official meeting between the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister and his Georgian counterpart Gela Bezhuashvili. “The sides will discuss a range of issues concerning bilateral cooperation, security in the region, including cooperation within the framework of GUAM,” she noted.

The spokesman neither confirmed nor rejected reports on the opening of an Azerbaijani consulate in Batumi. [More]

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Georgia on His Mind: an Interview with Mikheil Saakashvili

On Aug. 8, a missile the size of a bus struck near a village some 50 miles north of this Eurasian country's capital city, Tbilisi. It failed to explode. In all likelihood the missile came from Russian jet fighters violating Georgian airspace, as Georgians quickly claimed--the incident was eerily similar to one in March, when Russian attack helicopters flew at night and, without provocation, fired missiles into Georgian territory.

In both cases, Georgian authorities showed the world radar flight path data as proof. The world did nothing the first time, and will likely do nothing again. Meanwhile, unexplained incursions continue daily. This is the kind of near-lethal brinkmanship which Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili believes will only encourage more belligerence from Russia.

Mr. Saakashvili has spent his first 3 1/2 years in office impelling his country forward economically, courting NATO and European Union membership, eradicating corruption and trying to woo Russian-supported secessionists back into the fold. Above all, he strives daily to keep his country, with a population of four million, on the mind of Western nations so its security and success will seem synonymous with theirs--and keep the Russians at bay. The Russians still seem to perceive post-Soviet Georgian independence as a kind of betrayal, responding with an array of destabilizing policies, such as the imposition of embargoes on Georgian goods.

Click [here] for Melik Kaylan's interview with the Georgian president.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Georgia says it fired at Russian aircraft

Georgian forces fired at a Russian plane flying over Georgian territory earlier this week, a government official said Friday, claiming residents nearby reported an explosion and fire afterward. Russia immediately denied the claim. [More]

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Administrative Note

The blogger will be overseas and incommunicado for the next three weeks. The news from Georgia will resume in September.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Georgia up in arms over Olympic cash

A bitter diplomatic row has broken out over Russia's plans to harness the economic potential of a breakaway republic in neighbouring Georgia to prepare for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

There were wild celebrations in Moscow last month when Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi was chosen to host the games despite having practically no infrastructure in place. [More]

Emergency UN meeting: Georgia

Georgia has urged the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on "an act of aggression" by Russia.

Georgia says it has "incontrovertible evidence" that Russian jets launched a missile near the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Georgia's Charge d'Affaires Irakli Chikovani also urged the United Nations, Russia, the European Union and other international organisations to investigate and verify "this unprovoked use of force against Georgia." [More]

Bezhuashvili Provided German Colleague With Information

Prime News was told at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the Foreign Minister of Germany was provided with the information regarding the violation of the Georgian-Russian border, intrusion into Georgian airspace and the bombing of the territory of Georgia by military aircrafts of the Russian Federation that took place on 6 August 2007.

The necessity of adequate reaction from the international community - and Europe in particular - in regards to this act of agression was emphasized. Gela Bezhuashvili also asked for the support of Germany in evaluating the evidence of the 6 August attack on Georgia by the European experts. [More]

Kremlin denies air raid on Georgia

The Kremlin on Tuesday denied accusations from Georgia that Russian warplanes mounted an air raid near a disputed territory in the north of the ex-Soviet republic.

"We categorically deny any involvement in these events," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told AFP by telephone. "These declarations are not based on any reality." [More]

Emerging Georgia have first win on their mind

Odds as long as 5000-1 to win the rugby World Cup suggest Georgia's chances of causing an upset in France are not just slim, but positively anorexic.

The former Soviet bloc country are still very much an emerging nation in the game and their rugby union pedigree contrasts strongly with the world's leading sides.

It is only 18 years since they played their first international against Zimbabwe and 15 since they gained membership of the International Rugby Board (IRB), while there are only eight rugby pitches and some 300 adult players in the country and certainly no professional league.

But the Lelos made it to the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France with a 28-14 aggregate play-off win over another qualifier, Portugal, and have a genuine chance of claiming their first scalp in the tournament having been drawn in the same group as fellow minnows Namibia. [More]

Friday, August 10, 2007

Philippines, Georgia Seek Closer Ties

“Your country is progressing in a rapid way thanks to your vigorous government,” said Ambassador of the Philippines Bahnorim A. Guinomla during his official visit to Georgia on July 26.

In Tbilisi, the ambassador met with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli and other key government figures. [More]

Tbilisi secures control of villages in Kodori

Georgian authorities reported sporadic fighting Wednesday in a mountainous region where the government sent police forces to subdue a defiant militia leader and his supporters — the latest confrontation in a volatile former Soviet republic plagued by separatist movements. Georgy Arveladze, the chief of President Mikhail Saakashvili’s administration, claimed police had secured control over a handful of villages in the Kodori Gorge district, but skirmished with opponents in wooded areas or settlements where they faced resistance. The operation in the Kodori Gorge area began Tuesday, several days after Emzar Kvitsiani, who was an envoy to the region under Saakashvili’s predecessor, threatened to reactivate a militia of about 300 men. Arveladze asserted that the operation was being “conducted with great success,” despite difficult terrain. He claimed Kvitsiani and another man he referred to as a criminal figure were trying to escape from the region, but added, “all roads are blocked and they cannot run away.” [More]

S.Ossetia turns down peace talks in Tbilisi

South Ossetia's delegation will not participate in an August 9-10 session of the Joint Control Commission (JCC) on the settlement of the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict, the unrecognized republic's president said.

"We are in favor of continuing the JCC's work, but outside Georgia. Moscow, Vladikavkaz, Tskhinvali, or any other city, but not Tbilisi," Eduard Kokoity was quoted by the republic's information and press committee as saying. [More]

Tbilisi urges Abkhazia to drop bellicose rhetoric

Tbilisi and Sukhumi again traded accusations over the situation in the Kodori Gorge. Georgian Minister for Separatist Conflicts David Bakradze (pictured) on Friday urged the Abkhazian authorities to refrain from threats against the official Tbilisi.

They should think well before making threatening statements.... From the military point of view these threats are not serious, and from the political one -- an attempt to aggravate the situation and prevent the process of a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Bakradze expressed the hope that the international community, including the United Nations, would give an evaluation to such statements by the authorities of the self-proclaimed republic.

The latest wave of mutual accusations was set off by the opening of the NATO information center in Georgia, in the upper part of the Kodori Gorge on July 26. [More]

Gazprom unlikely to change gas price for Georgia

The price of gas for Georgia is projected to remain at $235 per thousand cubic meters in 2008, spokesman for Gazprom Sergei Kupriyanov told Echo of Moscow today. He pointed out that Georgia was already paying this amount for gas supplies from Russia. [More]

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Russia has no plans to engage Abkhazia in Olympic projects - FM

Russia has never raised the question of attracting Abkhazia for the construction of Olympic facilities in Sochi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.

“None of the Russian officials has ever raised such a question anywhere,” Lavrov said, responding to mass media reports.

Earlier, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza said in Tbilisi, Georgia, that attempts to involve Abkhazia in the Sochi Olympic projects would be an impermissible mistake on the part of Russia. [More]

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Georgia claims Russian attack

Russia has committed an "act of aggression" against Georgia by firing a guided missile at its territory, officials in Tbilisi say.

They say the missile landed outside the village of Tsitelubani on Monday, some 60km (37 miles) north-west of the capital Tbilisi, but did not explode.

Georgia has now made a formal protest to Russia over the incident. Moscow denies all the accusations. [More]

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Top Georgian threatens Olympic boycott

A top Georgian politician on Tuesday threatened a boycott against the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi if Moscow included a rebel province of Georgia in construction plans.

Nino Burdzhanadze was responding to comments made by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov, who said building materials for Olympic facilities could be brought to Sochi from neighbouring Abkhazia.

"He clearly forgot that Russian jurisdiction does not extend over the territory of Abkhazia," Burdzhanadze said in an interview. [More]