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Putin wants to build his own version of Kutaisi memorial

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, December 23
Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on Tuesday that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is planning to construct a World War II memorial in Moscow, similar to the one blown up a couple of days ago in Kutaisi.

“In our experts’ opinion, this monument was of artistic value. I consider it possible to recreate this monument in the capital of our once united state – in Moscow,” he said. “I believe that this initiative will be supported by the peoples of Russia and Georgia and I am sure there will be enough people, including representatives of the Georgian Diaspora in Russia, ready to allocate the money needed to build this memorial for those who died during WWII defending our common homeland,” the agency quoted Putin as saying. He also accused the Georgian authorities of attempting to “erase their joint heroic past from the memories of Soviet Union peoples,” at a Russian Government meeting on December 22

Earlier the Russian Foreign Ministry had also slammed Georgian officials over the case, assessing the removal of the WWII memorial as an “act of vandalism”. “This sacrilege is yet another disgraceful act committed by the current Georgian leadership in its maniacal aspiration to erase the historical memory of its own nation,” a statement released by the Russian Foreign Ministry on December 21 reads. Georgian officials have not made any comments on Putin’s proposal so far.

A 42-year-old woman and her 11-year-old daughter died after being struck by chunks of concrete when the 46-metre high memorial in Kutaisi was blown up on December 19. Investigators say that violations of security measures during the detonation caused these deaths. “The constructors had to ensure that people were evacuated from an area 300 metres in radius around the site,” member of the investigation group, Prosecutor Zaza Kachibaia, has said “Unfortunately, not all the relevant parameters were met. Law enforcers blocked off an area of only 211 metres radius around the site, at the request of the construction company,” he added.

Kachibaia said that the builders were well aware of the conditions which had to be met, “otherwise they would not have erected a 3-metre high security net. The incident was caused by the fact that the builders did not take into consideration the possibility that the explosion might cast the concrete as far as it did,” he noted.

Two more employees of SakMpetkMretsvi, the company which demolished the memorial, were detained on Tuesday. The two, the heads of the company’s Kutaisi and Tbilisi Departments, Elguja Gabadadze and Tengiz Darakhvelidze, had been responsible for maintaining safety at the site, Deputy Chief Prosecutor David Sikharulidze has said. Several more people might eventually be detained in connection with this case as forensic evidence is gathered, according to the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office. The Technical Director of SakPetkMretsvi, Avtandil Darsavelidze, was detained on December 20. On December 19, immediately following the incident, President Saakashvili sacked Imereti Governor Mikheil Chogovadze.

The Georgian opposition had strongly criticized the decision to demolish the WWII memorial, calling it “barbarity in the 21st century.” A group of opposition activists held a protest rally in Kutaisi on December 22, denouncing the demolition of the memorial and the deaths it caused. The Parliamentary opposition demanded an urgent investigation. The leader of Georgian Troupe, Jondi Baghaturia, held a special press conference on Monday at which he demanded the punishment of those responsible for the “tragedy” in Kutaisi and those who had “dared” erect a sign at the memorial site saying that the Parliament building would still be put there.

Georgian Parliament Speaker David Bakradze expressed his condolences to the family of the deceased at the opening of the Parliament Bureau Session on Tuesday. “An investigation has started and all people responsible for this will be punished in accordance with legislation,” Bakradze stated.