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The Fall of Sokhumi remembered

By Londa Mindiashvili
Monday, September 28
The 16th Anniversary of the Fall of Sokhumi was marked on September 27. Sokhumi in Abkhazia fell to the Russian supported separatist forces on September 27, 1993 after a 13-month armed conflict.

Yesterday a special statement was released by the legitimate Abkhazian Government and High Council. It appealed to Georgians and Abkhazians to stand together against the destructive and dangerous moves of Russia in this region, the birthplace of Georgia.

“The only goal of Georgians is to regain Abkhazia and return to Abkhazia. We firmly believe that the sorrow of 27 September will be followed by the happy day when Georgians and Abkhazians will return to their homes. Abkhazians and Georgians have to seriously consider the reasons and outcomes of the tragedy. A realistic assessment of the events in Abkhazia is necessary for us and for future generations to prevent such a tragedy recurring and the mutual alienation of a divided society deepening. Time may pass but years cannot soothe the pain of 27 September,” the statement reads.

Defence Minister of Georgia Bacho Akhalaia laid a wreath on the memorial in Heroes’ Square today. Akhalaia gave his condolences to the families of the dead and stated that “the men who died in this conflict are real heroes of the history of Georgia and we must finish the job started by them.”

Political parties also sent representatives to the event at Heroes Square, among them representatives of The Movement for Fair Georgia and the Christian Democratic Movement. “This day is not only one of sorrow but of judgment and thought. We must think about the ways we can save our country,” stated leader of the Movement for Fair Georgia Zurab Noghaideli. Christian Democrat and Vice Speaker of Parliament Levan Vephkhvadze explained that those who had died in the conflict were fighting for the interests of their country and for a united Georgia. “I hope we manage to fight for the rescue of our country together,” added Vephkhvadze.

Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II spoke about the day Sokhumi fell and the war heroes in his sermon at in Sameba Cathedral. “This is the day when Sokhumi fell and Zhiuli Shartava was shot. We pray for them,” said the Patriarch.

A special event for the anniversary of the Fall of Sokhumi was also held in Rustavi. The local governments of Rustavi and of the region laid wreaths at the monument of Zhiuli Shartava, who is considered a national hero. War veterans, refugees living in Rustavi and school pupils gathered at this monument, then moved to the memorial to the soldiers who died in the Abkhazian war. A moment of silence was observed to honour the memory of the dead soldiers.

Yesterday a baptism ceremony was also held in St. Mary’s Church in the Dadiani Museum in Zugdidi, Samegrelo. Representatives of the Abkhaz legitimate Government stood as sponsors as Abkhaz teenagers were baptised. The teenagers had arrived in Zugdidi from the Gali district and crossed the administrative boundary of Abkhazia with their parents. They asked for asylum from the Georgian Government and gave details of the Russian occupants’ regime. They asserted that the actions the aggressors are now taking on the ground will destroy Abkhaz culture and the Abkhaz people there.

Prior to the christening, a service commemorating the people killed in the Abkhazian war was conducted at Vlakerna’s St. Mary’s Church, after which the Anchiskhati Icon was taken from the church to the Enguri Bridge on the administrative boundary of Abkhazia. The clergy held a public prayer for Georgia’s reintegration and reinforcement there. The icon was taken there with the blessing of Metropolitan Gerasime of Zugdidi and Tsaishi. It will later be taken to the Tskhinvali Region.