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The News in Brief

Tuesday, May 27
Two bodies found in Dariali landslide, four people remain missing

The death toll from a landslide in Dariali gorge increased to three after the bodies of two men were recovered on May 23 from trucks buried in debris.

Four people remain missing nearly a week after the disaster, according to the Interior Ministry. Officials initially put the number of missing persons at seven, but later revised it to six. Two of them were confirmed dead after the bodies were found on May 23.

“Preliminary examination suggests that both were citizens of Russia,” Zviad Katsashvili, head of the Interior Ministry’s emergency management department, said late on Friday night.

A driver from Ukraine was recovered in a critical condition from the truck on the same day when the landslide hit on May 17, but he succumbed to serious injuries next day in hospital in Tbilisi.

North-South Pipeline, damaged by the landslide, has now been restored and supply of Russian gas to Armenia via Georgia resumed, the Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation said on May 23.

But the road, linking Georgia with Russia, remains closed. Officials are not yet able to say how long it will take to clean up the area from large amount of debris and to restore the road. This road is also important for Armenia as it is the only land access for this country to Russia via Georgia.

GD activists confront UNM in Rustavi

An incident involving verbal confrontation took place in town of Rustavi on May 24 after several dozen of activists from the Georgian Dream ruling coalition rallied outside local office of opposition UNM party, where the latter’s mayoral candidate Mamuka Chikovani was holding a campaign event.

The police were separating opposing side from each other as GD activists were shouting slogans against UNM members.

GD’s mayoral candidate in Rustavi, Davit Jikia, said that he disapproves such incidents, but also said that some people are “sick and tired” of UNM’s “populism”.

After similar incidents on April 10 in various parts of the country, some of which grew into scuffles, an inter-agency commission for fair elections at the Ministry of Justice, which reviews parties’ complains over campaign-related violations and issues non-binding recommendations, called on the political forces to discourage their members from holding rallies and counter-demonstrations in close proximity to opponents’ campaign events.

“Political parties should give a clear instruction to their activists to refrain from attending and counter-campaigning at pre-election meetings of opponent candidates in order to rule out even a verbal confrontation,” reads a recommendation issued by the inter-agency commission on April 11.

On May 23 UNM said in a statement that pressure was exerted by the authorities on some of its candidates running in the June 15 local elections. It claimed that such cases were taking place especially in those municipalities, where its candidates “have a real chance of victory.” UNM said that its majoritarian candidate for Sakrebulo in Akhaltsikhe and another majoritarian candidate for Sakrebulo in Adigeni, both in Samtskhe-Javakheti region, withdrew from the race after pressure was exerted on them.

Georgian Dream promotes ‘peaceful’ election environment

The Georgian Dream election bloc is calling on its activists to "peacefully participate” in the election campaign after it sacked a party leader ahead of the June 15 elections.

The political group announced the head of Rustavi city headquarter had been fired because of his involvement in an incident on May 24 between the Georgian Dream and United National Movement activists.

In a written statement, the Georgian Dream bloc said: "Georgian Dream remains faithful to the idea of peaceful and free election campaign”.

"We dissociate ourselves from any kind of violence even when it is provoked by our political opponents.”

The bloc believed "the opponents’ provocative actions” aimed to worsen the calm pre-election environment in the country.

The Georgian Dream called on its supporters to support the election campaign and continue in a peaceful and constructive way.

Non-resident Ambassadors flock to Georgia for national tour

Almost two dozen non-resident Ambassadors of Georgia are in the country to learn more about the nation they represent.

The overseas guests joined Tbilisi-based Ambassadors to embark on a four day tour of Georgia, which included a visit to the Samtskhe-Javakheti region in southern Georgia.

Georgia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Maia Panjikidze said there were more than 30 embassies in Georgia and 65 countries covered the service, among them Turkey, Azerbaijan and Ukraine.

"Accordingly, a non-resident Ambassador rarely visits Georgia. Sometimes only once during his accreditation period,” she said.

To give the non-resident Ambassadors more knowledge of Georgia, the Government thought it would be best to invite them to Georgia and let them explore the country.

"So, we had such an initiative and I am happy that 22 non-resident ambassadors are here in Georgia for a four-day program,” Panjikidze stated.

She said the initiative was "very important” and the four day program aimed to give Ambassadors the opportunity to better learn about Georgia.

Today and tomorrow, Ambassadors will visit the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, meet local government representatives and visit cultural heritage sites.

The diplomat tour was arranged by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the National Tourism Agency, Ministry of Culture and Georgian Railway.

Violence against women increasing in Georgia, group claims

The rights group Identoba held a demonstration Saturday outside the government office to highlight the problem of violence against women.

The organization, which is most known for having organized a gay rights rally in May 2013 which was attacked by crowds of Orthodox Christian activists and priests, says 13 women have died as a result of violence in the last three months and warns that this is part of a trend.

A few tens of people participated in the demonstration, whose goal was to show support for women and protest against violence.

Participants said, legislation in Georgia looks like it offers full protection, but the law is actually ignored.

Irakli Vacharadze, head of Identoba, told journalists that the main problem is that the Orthodox Church and the government ‘are telling people that it’s ok that there is violence against women, who should be subordinate to her husband.’

He said there is a law which says no-one’s rights must be violated, but nobody is following this law.

Some of the posters at the rally read “Women are beaten in Georgia”, “Son killed mother”, “Don’t finance violence with my money”, “Don’t hide, don’t be silent”, the latter referring to women who remain silent and don’t speak up about violence.
(Democracy & Freedom Watch)