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The News in Brief

Monday, February 17
Chairperson of Kutaisi City Hall resigns

Georgia’s second largest city of Kutaisi has been left without a mayor and without the chairperson of the city assembly at the same time. Chairperson of the assembly Tamaz Margvelashvili, who was accused of taking an illegal decision by dismissing Mayor Shota Murghulia from this position, made a statement about his resignation the following day. He said the confrontations between the officials affect the city and its residents first of all.

The resignation of the chairperson will be discussed on the Monday’s sitting of the assembly and the deputy chairperson will start to fulfill the duties of the chairperson after the resignation is confirmed.
(Rustavi 2)

Georgian Dream Coalition gets ready for the local self-government elections

The Georgian Dream Coalition is gearing up for the upcoming local elections. The Coalition Political session led by Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili was held at the Georgian Dream Head office.

As the parliamentary majority member Davit Berdzenishvili informed, at the session they discussed the issue of the upcoming elections without making any particular decisions.

The parliamentary majority member also expressed hope that the coalition will gain a landslide victory in the upcoming elections. “All recourses ensuring our future victory is in our hands,” Berdzenishvili said.

Financial Police Probes Mobile Operator Geocell

The Finance Ministry’s investigative service is probing one of Georgia’s largest mobile operators, Geocell, over alleged tax evasion, Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri said on February 14.

He declined to provide details, citing that the investigation was still ongoing.

Geocell is part of the Swedish-Finnish telecom operator TeliaSonera.

Investigators from the Finance Ministry’s unit in charge of tracking financial and economic crimes launched “investigative measures” in Geocell headquarters in Tbilisi on February 13.

A spokesman of the Investigative Service, also known informally as the financial police, said that the investigation is ongoing under the article 218 of criminal code, dealing with tax evasion. “More detailed information will be released later,” he said.

In a written statement on February 14, Pasi Koistinen, CEO of Geocell, said that the company operates transparently and is one of the largest taxpayers in the country, which has no reason whatsoever to evade taxes. He said that regrettably the company is not yet aware of factual circumstances that caused launch of the investigation.

According to TeliaSonera’s 2013 year-end report, net sales in local currency decreased 4.1% in Georgia, mainly due to lost government tender in the first half of 2013.

Officials of the Ministry of Agriculture to be retrained

USAID has executed a project at the Ministry of Agriculture. Reportedly, the new project “Modernizing Extension & Advisory Services” (SEAS) aims to retrain the employees of the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as introduce them to the modern methods of agricultural practice.

On February and March, this year, around 200 officials of the ministry are planned to be involved in the training courses.

USAID Mission Director Steven Hiking and the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Ilia Kvitashvili, bestowed certificates upon 26 employees of 7 regional Information-Consultation Service of the Ministry; all 26 employees have undergone the SEAS training course which aims at developing our agricultural system by enlarging our officials’ knowledge in this sphere as well as helping them to elaborate and handle the extension system procedures.

Allegedly, the two-year project will be carried out with the assistance of the Ilia State University professors.

Infrastructure Minister meets regional authorities

Georgian Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure continues meetings with regional authorities. Davit Narmania arrived in the Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti Region, where he had a meeting with the governor Parmen Margvelidze and other authorities. The sides discussed infrastructure projects, which the ministry plans to implement this year, the most important of which are the rehabilitation of roads. The minister said the government intends to spend over 14 million GEL on the projects in this region.
(Rustavi 2)

Georgia climbs 17 places on Press Freedom Index

Georgia climbed 17 places on the latest Press Freedom Index and is listed in 84th place among 180 countries.

The index measures the level of freedom of information in different countries and is published annually by Reporters Without Borders.

This newest report, covering the year 2013, says Georgia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan all enjoy a significant degree of pluralism and relatively little state censorship. But the considerable social polarization is reflected in the media and the climate for journalists, who are often harassed by pressure groups.

Reporters Without Borders assume that the elections in 2013 were calmer than in previous years, pressure on journalists was rare and political changes were also reflected in the media.

The best conditions for the media are found in Finland, Holland and Norway, according to Reporters Without Borders. In the other end of the spectrum, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea are in 178th, 179th and 180th place respectively, where, the organization claims, freedom of speech does not even exist.
(Democracy & Freedom Watch)

Family appeals to government for help

The family of a 27 year-old Georgian man Mirza Goletiani, who died in Belgium due to unknown reasons, appealed to the government to assist them in funding the transfer of the body to Georgia. They are expecting a conclusion of the expertise of the psychiatric clinic in Belgium, where their son was. The relatives say that they talked with Mirza via internet a couple of days before his death and he was talking about his plans.

Mirza arrived in Belgium two weeks ago and stayed at the immigrants’ camp, where he had allegedly attempted to commit suicide. The man was taken to the psychiatric clinic, where, according to preliminary reports, he strangled himself with his boot straps.
(Rustavi 2)