The parents of two missing soldiers who failed to surface during deep-sea diving training on August 16, went on a hunger strike as a Turkish naval vessel involved in the soldiers’ searching operation left Georgian waters on August 31.
Parents of missing soldiers on hunger strike
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, September 2
Turkey's deep sea search vessel TCG Akcakoca had been leading the search for Corporal Iago Sharadze and Private Giorgi Nanetashvili from August 20, as Georgia’s Ministry of Defence asked for help.
On August 31, Georgia's Ministry of Defence announced the ship's crew had ceased the search having expended all resources while meeting the difficult conditions they faced in their work.
Defence Minister Levan Izoria said now only Georgia’s relevant bodies would carry out the search for the soldiers.
The parents of the missing soldiers blame the Ministry of Defence and particularly the instructors for the fatality.
They say the soldiers were undergoing the training while a five-level storm was raging on the Black Sea coast in Georgia’s western Gonio region.
“We demand the bodies of our sons to be found. If not, we won’t stop the hunger strike,” the mother of Iago Sharadze said.
Minister Izoria did not exclude the fault of the instructors and said they did not have relevant certificates to carry out such training exercises.
In his previous comments, the Minister said there could be a fault of a “wider circle” of people rather than one or two persons.
Minister has already demanded the temporal suspension of all diving trainings until the investigation is concluded.
Georgia’s ex-Defence Minister Tinatin Khidasheli has grilled Izoria for his statements and accused him of “discrediting the Ministry” as Izoria voiced his views before the official investigation was over.
After the two soldiers went missing, the following day, at the request of the Georgian Government, United States (US) forces assigned to Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) also became involved in the search for the soldiers.
Also on August 17, a vessel from Turkey’s Coast Guard Service, with nine expert crew on board, entered Georgian waters to participate in the search and recovery operation.
In the early morning of August 20 a mine hunting ship from the Turkish Navy, TCG AKCAKOCA, also entered the territorial waters of Georgia to support the search.
However, none of the efforts yielded any results.