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Friday, April 14
Penguins donated by twin-city Bristol arrive at Tbilisi zoo

Tbilisi Zoo is now home to a new group of South African penguins donated by twin-city Bristol, UK, as the Georgian capital’s zoo continues its restoration efforts after the flood of 2015.

The handover of the 19 young penguins was held in Tbilisi on Tuesday, after the aquatic birds arrived via a charter flight from the UK.

The occasion in Georgia’s capital was attended by officials and came ahead of next year’s 30th anniversary of the twinning of Bristol and Tbilisi in 1988.

“Since the disastrous flood at Tbilisi Zoo we have been working with Bristol Zoo to find ways in which we could help them by providing advice on developing a new Zoo in Tbilisi and by providing some new animals”, said Chair of Bristol’s Tbilisi Twinning Association Derek Pickup at the ceremony.

“The arrival of the South African penguins was greatly anticipated. Before the [2015] flood our zoo featured penguins handed over to us as present from the Living Coasts [Coastal Zoo and Aquarium in Torquay, the UK], however unfortunately we could not save them [during the natural disaster]. Now we have welcomed penguins back at our park”, said Tbilizi Zoo Director Zurab Gurielidze.

The June 13, 2015 flood in central Tbilisi killed 19 people while also taking the lives of 281 animals of the zoo.

Since the date the park has been under extensive restoration in order to house animals while a completely new zoo is being built near Tbilisi Sea.

To adapt the zoo for accepting the African Penguins the previously used penguinarium was extended, with additional space and sand areas set up at the venue.

New housing areas for the penguins were also set up in anticipation of the handover.

A Bristol Zoo press release said the penguin group would "form a new breeding group" to boost numbers of the species currently noted as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Their breeding at Tbilisi Zoo is part of the collaboration between the zoos of the two cities under their membership of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria.

The handover was arranged to coincide with the arrival to Tbilisi of a delegation from Bristol that includes Bristol Tbilisi Association chairman Derek Pickup as well as business figures and Bristol Zoo representatives.

The delegation is scheduled to meet UK ambassador Justin McKenzie Smith in Tbilisi next week. (

Georgia to get rid of its SU-25 in favor of drones and helicopters

Georgia is getting rid of its Soviet era Su-25 attack aircraft, and will instead rely on military helicopters and drones, the country’s defense minister said.

The Su-25 is a severely outdated aircraft which requires spare parts that are produced in Russia, Minister Levan Izoria said.

Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, he added that his ministry plans to sell the remaining aircraft and use the earnings to purchase helicopters and drones, not specifying further.

The Georgian Air Force currently has 12 Su-25 jets at its disposal, along with several Mi-24, Mi-8 and US made Bell UH-1 Iroquois military helicopters.

The Su-25, or “Frogfoot” in NATO jargon, is a close air support single-seat, twin-engine aircraft developed by Sukhoi Design Bureau in the mid 1970s. It was manufactured in Tbilisi at a plant known locally as Factory No 31.

The Georgian Air Force currently has 12 of the jets at its disposal, along with several Mi-24, Mi-8 and US made Bell UH-1 Iroquois, or “Huey” military helicopters.

In May 2015, Georgia unveiled a new unmanned attack helicopter assembled at its military research facility, Delta.

Judging from the photos, the unnamed attack and reconnaissance drone appeared to be a modified RotorWay Exec kit helicopter.

Delta was established in 2010, and is subordinate to the Ministry of Economy. Apart from aviation products, the company also produces armored vehicles, such as the Lazika and Didgori APCs, artillery and other military equipment. (

We have not received positive responses from Russian, Ossetian and Abkhazian sides concerning humanitarian visits on Easter holiday - Ketevan Tsikhelashvili

“We have not received positive responses from the Russian, Ossetian and Abkhazian sides concerning humanitarian visits over the Easter holiday,” Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, State Minister of Reconciliation and Civic Equality, stated.

According to her, since 2008, the local population has periodically faced problems in terms of visiting churches and cemeteries behind the occupation line on holidays.

"The Georgian side raised this issue with our allies in all formats, including the Geneva international discussions and IPRM meetings. Our partners expressed full readiness to ensure humanitarian visits, but unfortunately, we still have not received positive responses from Russian, Ossetian and Abkhazian sides. We still continue to work on this issue. I hope it will be realized that this is a purely humanitarian step and the issue should not be politicized. Of course, the security of the population is very important for us, but they are well aware if the existing situation and I am sure they will behave reasonably during the holidays," said Ketevan Tsikhelashvili. (IPN)