The messenger logo

The News in Brief

Wednesday, January 27
Vladimir Putin approves construction of highway connecting North Caucasus with Abkhazia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved the construction of a highway that will connect Karachay-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria with Abkhazia.

"The road will link several regions of Russia and even Abkhazia, which will bring nothing but good. This is a good project. We, the federal authorities, are ready to support it," the President said.

According to the project, the highway will be built by Chinese and Russian companies.

The sides also plan to sign an agreement on the construction of a sea port in Ochamchire within the next year. (IPN)

Military Personnel Vote Debated Ahead of Gardabani Gamgebeli Election

Three main Georgian election monitoring groups said that existing rules regulating how military personnel can vote in local and majoritarian MP elections leave room for the manipulation of election results.

It has been an issue during majoritarian MP by-election in Sagarejo and it has re-emerged again ahead of the January 28 election of head (gamgebeli) of the Gardabani municipality in the Kvemo Kartli region. Several major military facilities, including the Vaziani military base, are located in the municipality.

According to existing legislation, military personnel can cast a ballot in local elections (mayoral, local councils, gamgebeli) and majoritarian MP elections in a constituency where their base is located even if they are not locals of that district, but if they have to serve at that base for at least next one year.

Other voters can only cast ballots in local elections and majoritarian MP elections only in those constituencies where they are registered. Georgian election monitoring groups – the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) and Transparency International (TI) Georgia - say that applying the same rule to military service members would put them in equal conditions with other voters and contrary to Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli’s remarks this demand has nothing to do with depriving soldiers the right to vote.

The monitoring groups also said that allowing military service members to cast ballots in local elections in a constituency where they are not registered is fraught with the risk of manipulating election results – an issue which is also a source of concern for opposition parties.

The monitoring groups say that this is a problem especially in the condition when the election administration says that it is not entitled to verify whether the list of those military personnel which the MoD says are eligible to vote in Gardabani has been compiled by the MoD in conformity with electoral code requirements.

According to MoD, there are about 700 military personnel in the Gardabani municipality, who are eligible to cast ballots in the January 28 elections of the gamgebeli. A special polling station has been established at the 1st Artillery Brigade in the Vaziani base and personnel from the Krtsanisi National Training Center, as well as from the Basic Combat Training Center will cast ballots at a nearby polling station.

Only the Georgian Dream (GD) ruling coalition and United National Movement (UNM) opposition party have nominated candidates for the January 28 election of the gamgebeli in Gardabani. (

German expert to help save 900 year old tree at Erekle II’s palace

A 900 year old plane tree next to the palace of King Erekle II (1762-98) is slowly dying, and the local municipality of Telavi is calling on the assistance of a German expert to help save it.

In Telavi, seat of the 18th century king of Kartli and Kakheti, it is customary for newlywed couples to have their picture taken next to the 40 meters tall tree, whose trunk measures 3.6 meters in diameter and 11 meters in circumference.

But for the past couple of years, the tree has started to rot. Worms are eating away at its trunk and slowly drying it out.

In November, 2014, the local municipality asked the Environment Ministry to send experts and evaluate its condition.

Later, they asked environmental experts in Germany for help. According to Vice Mayor of Telavi Tengiz Mtvarelishvili, a German expert plans a trip to Georgia in spring.

“It is necessary to prolong the life of the tree. I was in Germany and met with the high-level expert Dietler Koch. He once was here and saw the tree. He will come back in March and start work,” Mtvarelishvili told Information Center of Kakheti.

The expert has to identify what is affecting the tree and how to eliminate the problem, he added.

The vice mayor said that rescuing the tree will require GEL 35,000. Biberach in Germany, a twin town to Telavi, will cover 90% of the expenses, while the rest will be covered by the local municipality. (DF watch)