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The News in Brief

Monday, February 16
Decorations given to families of killed soldiers

Representatives of the Georgian Defence Ministry have handed over first level Vakhtang Gorgasali Orders to the families of soldiers who died during the Russian aggression. Shalva Kochladze, the Deputy Defence Minister, brought the orders in person to the parents of Aleksandre Tandashvili and Ushang Sopromadze.

Shalva Kochladze said that a special commission working in the Defence Ministry will address the issue of finding employment for the family members of the dead soldiers.

The head of the Administration of the Defence Ministry also took third level Vakhtang Gorgasali Orders to the family of Avedik Lomidze in Samtredia district. This corporal of the 4th Infantry Brigade died in Tskhinvali on August 11. The head of the Administration of the Defence Ministry will subsequently hand Vakhtang Gorgasali Orders to the families of twenty more soldiers.
(Rustavi 2)

Turkish fishing boat detained

The seiner Pala Reis, sailing under a Turkish flag, has been detained in Poti. The 23-member crew has been accused of illegally crossing of the border and fishing. As well as 50 tonnes of sprats, a large amount of marijuana was found on the vessel during a search.

The fish have been downloaded from the ship. The amount of damages and fines to be imposed on the vessel will be specified later. An investigation of this incident has been launched in which Inspectors of the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution are also participating.
(Rustavi 2)

Ministry makes official statement on the illegal business of Megafon

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia has promulgated an official statement on the illegal business activities of Megafon.

“It is a well-known fact that Russia’s mobile phone operator Megafon is carrying out illegal business activity in Georgia’s occupied territories, providing telecommunication connection throughout this part of Georgia’s sovereign territory without any kind of license.

“On 27 November 2008, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of the Ministry of Justice appealed to the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation for legal redress concerning Megafon’s aforesaid illegal activity on the basis of international documents, including the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (ETS 030).

“In a response letter from the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation it is indicated that the Russian authorities have rejected the Georgian side’s plea for legal redress. This decision represents yet another component of Russia’s annexation policy and further proof that the Russian Federation continues to violate universally recognized norms and principles of international law and disregards its own international commitments, especially when dealing with Georgia’s occupied territories,” the statement reads.

Fire leaves one person dead in Kutaisi

The first and second floors of the House of the Educational Workforce in Kutaisi have been damaged by fire. The fire killed the watchman of the building, who suffocated in the smoke. The fire brigade could not manage to save him.

Two firemen were also injured fighting the blaze. They have been transferred to hospital with light burns.

The cause of the fire is not yet known. The House of the Educational Workforce was built in the 19th century and is deemed a historic building.

Editor-Publisher of 24 Saati considers distribution of newspapers impossible to limit

Editor-Publisher of 24 Saati Paata Veshapidze considers that it is impossible to limit the distribution of newspapers.

Veshapidze told InterpressNews: “New paper booths are to be installed in Tbilisi. I have seen them and I like them – they resemble the Paris booths. But I don’t have information about who they belong to and who will provide the papers and operate them.

It is impossible for anyone to limit the distribution of papers. I’m sure that the intentions of such people will be fruitless. If there is any discussion of this topic I’m ready to take part in it, as I know something about the practices in this regard in Eastern Europe and Germany. For instance, in Germany distributor companies inform the newspapers about how many papers are sold and at what times. This enables the publication to analyze why some editions sold well and others not. Such a transparent distribution system will only help newspapers in Georgia. I think it’s just technically impossible to limit the distribution of papers.

Leader of the Christian Democrats Giorgi Targamdze spoke about the threats facing the print media after the President’s report to Parliament. Targamadze stated that leading newspaper editors had addressed him concerning the plans of the Government. Targamadze asked the President to respond to their concerns and express his position. President Saakashvili did not respond directly but stated that “I will be happy if the Georgia media is more competent, free and responsible.”

Ukraine requests introduction of visa regime with Georgia and Moldova

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine has requested that its Ministry of Foreign Affairs considers the possibility of introducing a visa regime with Georgia and Moldova, reports.

According to Minister of Internal Affairs Jury Lutsenko, many ethnic Georgians are members of criminal groups ‘operating’ in Ukraine and Moldavians use Ukraine as a transit state for penetration into Slovakia and Poland. He feels that “now this problem is extremely sharp.”

The Minister remarked that he has friendly feelings towards Georgia but added that “more than 150 criminal groups” are active in Ukraine today and it is essential to take corresponding measures.