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The News in Brief

Wednesday, February 29
Coverage of Saakashvili speech to be published Thursday

President Mikheil Saakashvili presented his annual report to Parliament late yesterday evening. The Messenger will provide details of the speech and the subsequent debate, as well as comprehensive analysis, in tomorrow’s edition.

Freedom House criticizes upcoming Russian election

Influential American think tank, Freedom House, has assessed the upcoming Russian presidential election as unfair and illegal.

"Putin may declare himself winner in the March 4 presidential election, but he is already a loser," David Kramer, President of the organization, said.

Kramer cited numerous civil and democratic violations in the pre-election period at a conference held at George Washington University on Monday.

He said that violations of human rights and democratic institutions have occurred, as well as inappropriate pressure on the judiciary and general corruption. (Rustavi 2)

Free Georgia to run independently

Opposition party Free Georgia will participate in the parliamentary elections on their own, party leader Kakha Kukava announced at the Prime Time Press Club Monday.

Kukava spoke about the vision of the party. "Free Georgia plans to participate in the elections as the part of the political spectrum sometimes called the third centre. Others say it is a national-liberation movement, and for Saakashvili it is a pro-Russian movement," he said.

Kukava also invited United National Movement leaders in participate in televised debates. (Rustavi 2)

Foreign Minister pays official visit to Israel

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is on an official visit to Israel. Grigol Vashadze is being hosted by President of Israel, Shimon Peres, to discuss bilateral relations and the political and economic situations in both countries.

The two men also discussed regional security issues.

During his visit, the Georgian Minister will hold meetings with the Speaker of the Knesset and the Foreign Minister. (Rustavi 2)

Karel de Gucht visits Georgia

Free trade negotiations between Georgia and the European Union have been officially announced by Karel de Gucht, the European Commissioner for Trade.

During his visit to Georgia, the Commissioner met with the Prime Minister, Nika Gilauri. The first round of negotiations is expected to be held by the end of March.

The European Union decided to open free trade negotiations with Georgia at the end of 2011. (Rustavi 2)

Ambassador registered as candidate for president in S. Ossetia

The South Ossetian Central Election Commission has registered the breakaway region's Ambassador to Russia, Dmitri Medoev, as a candidate for President.

Georgian analysts believe that the Kremlin replaced Anatoly Bibilov with Medoev, as the former diplomat lost the previous election, held in November.

The repeat presidential election will take place on March 25. Medoev's opponents will be former Ossetian security chief Leonid Bibilov, and human rights activist Davit Sanakoev. (Rustavi 2)