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The News in Brief

Wednesday, February 17
The peak of flu virus is overcome – Amiran Gamkrelidze

“A total of 16 people have died from the flu virus in Georgia,” Amiran Gamkrelidze, the head of the National Disease Control center, has told reporters.

According to him, the flu virus is becoming less prevalent.

‘The peak spread of the flu virus was the fourth week of the year, when 357 cases were medically confirmed per 100 000 residents. The number decreased in the fifth week, when we saw 310 cases per 100 000 residents. As for the sixth week, we had 284 cases. Fewer people have checked into medical institutions but it does not mean we should be complacent. Flu cases are still expected throughout February,’ Gamkrelidze said. (IPN)

Georgian Energy Minister Visits Iran

Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze travelled to Iran on Monday to discuss potential gas imports and cooperation in other areas of energy sector, the Georgian Energy Ministry said.

“The Georgian and Iranian governments are at this stage studying the possibilities of importing Iranian gas to Georgia. The chance to implement various other investment projects in the energy sector will also be discussed,” the Georgian Energy Ministry said in a brief statement on Monday.

At a public discussion on Georgia’s energy policy hosted on February 10 by the Tbilisi office of the Heinrich Boll Foundation, Georgia’s Deputy Energy Minister Mariam Valishvili said that buying Iranian gas at this stage is not commercially viable for Georgia as it is about 25% more expensive than other sources. She said that some type of energy swap arrangements are not being ruled out, but it is a long-term perspective and she does not foresee anything tangible for a short-term period.

“But we want to be in the forefront of negotiations with Iran, because the latter is interested in our region and we are interested in their resources [Iran] – so there is a convergence of interests, but now it’s difficult for me to say what kind of shape our relations may take,” Valishvili said.

Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze met his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on the sidelines of the security conference in Munich on February 12.

In addition, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili spoke on the phone with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on February 8.

Georgia reinstated 45-day visa-free rules for Iranian citizens, which were scrapped by Tbilisi in 2013; the new regulations came into effect on February 15. (

Putin critic to play a gig in Tbilisi

Andrey Makarevich, the leader of Russian cult rock band Mashina Vremeni and a vocal critic of the Kremlin, will play a concert in the Tbilisi Concert Hall on March 9.

Mashina Vremeni was founded in 1969 and is the oldest among the active Russian rock bands.

During the war in Donbas in August 2014, Makarevich performed for internally displaced people in the Ukrainian town of Svyatohirsk in Donetsk Oblast, which caused a backlash in mainstream Russian media. The controversy led to a call for stripping him of Russian state honours made by Russian MP Yevgeniy Fyodorov, who described his performance as ‘partnering with fascists’ and ‘siding with the Russian Federation’s enemies’.

Andrey Makarevich was described as ‘a traitor’ in some Russian pro-government media outlets and was banned from entering Crimea by the de facto local authorities following his criticism of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula.

In June 2015, Makarevich openly criticised Russian policy towards Ukraine and said that Vladimir Putin wasn’t ‘worthy of being Russia’s leader’.

A couple of days ago, Makarevich accused President Putin’s plenipotentiary to Ural Federal District Igor Kholmanskikh of being involved in cancelling his concerts in the region. (DF watch)

Georgian citizens to be refused asylum in Austria

The Austrian government has decided to place Georgia on the so-called safe countries’ list, which means that all Georgian citizens arriving Austria will be refused asylum.

According to the Associated Press agency, an official statement on this was released by Austria’s Interior Ministry.

According to the statement, cases of Georgian asylum-seekers will be discussed within 10 days, while the process lasts for about a month for Syrian citizens.

According to the decision of the Austrian government, Algeria, Ghana, Morocco, Mongolia and Tunisia are also on the list of newly ‘safe’ countries. (IPN)