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Georgia’s ex-official becomes Odessa police chief

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, June 10
One more Georgia ex-official takes high post to Ukraine; former Deputy Interior Minister Gia Lortkipanidze has been appointed as a police chief of Odessa through the solution made by the city governor, Georgia’s ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Saakashvili, who was granted Ukrainian citizenship and took the governor’s post several days ago, presented Lortkipanidze on June 9 to his new position.

Unlike Saakashvili, Lortkipanidze is not wanted by Georgia’s law-enforcement bodies. However, his name is related to several notorious cases, the Lapankuri Special Operation and the May 26 opposition rally dispersal among them.

Whilst being in Georgia, Lortkipanidze was questioned over the cases, while former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili remains in custody owing to the charges related to May 26 developments.

Both of the cases were re-opened by the current government of Georgia. However, the investigation has not been yet concluded.

On August 29, 2012 the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) stated that it was carrying out an anti-terrorist operation against an armed group close to Lapankuri village in the Lopota gorge, not far from the Dagestan section of the Georgian-Russian border. Later on the same day, it announced that eleven armed individuals and three Georgian special service personnel were killed in a clash that was preceded by a hostage-taking incident.

After the initial denials, the Interior Ministry confirmed on September 2 that among the gunmen killed in the clash, two were Georgian citizens.

Apart from the ongoing investigation being carried out by the law-enforcement bodies, the Public Defender has also studied the issue and revealed a report.

According to the Public Defender, his findings were based on information gathered from “confidential sources” and relatives of some of those men killed during the clash.

Ombudsman Ucha Nanuashvili claims that in February 2012, senior officials from the Georgian Interior Ministry contacted some of the “veterans of the Chechen war”, as well as representatives of the Chechen community currently living in Europe with the purpose of convincing them that the Georgian authorities were ready to provide armed militants a so-called "corridor”– a free passage for infiltrating Russia’s North Caucasus via Georgia.

Nanauahsvili states that the training courses lasted too long and this dissatisfied the militants. The militants demanded that the Georgians keep their promise. However, the Interior Ministry refused and asked them to surrender their weapons. They refused and the Georgian side used force against them.

The Chechen Press also published the results of the investigation concerning the controversial Lapankuri special operation. The report by the self-recognized government of the Chechen Republic accuses both the Russian and Georgian sides in the “deliberate murder” of its people. According to the report, the Georgian side sacrificed Chechen individuals for its election goals.

The investigation asserts that the special operation was planned by high-ranking Georgian officials such as then-Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, who apparently acted in agreement with President Mikheil Saakashvili, and the operation was carried out in the hands of the deputy Interior Minister of that time, Gia Lortkipanidze. The report reads that Lortkipanidze “suggested” Chechens and other residents from the North Caucasus living in European states to arrive in Georgia and the Georgian government promised them a corridor to Dagestan to fight against Russia. However, when the individuals arrived, the Georgians broke the promise and killed them prior to the parliamentary elections.

As for the events of May 26, on May 26, 2011the Special Forces units used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to disperse a peaceful protest rally organized by the Public Assembly, opposition union. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Georgia, 8 policemen, one journalist and 27 civil citizens were injured. Two people died - a policeman and a civilian. A further 90 people were placed in the preliminary detainment. The police action on the day has been condemned various domestic and foreign organizations.