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The News in Brief

Wednesday, May 17
Russia Approves Pension Payments for Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia

Moscow and Tskhinvali exchanged notes on May 12 on the ratification of the agreement on pensions provision for the Russian citizens residing in the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Tskhinvali-based news agencies reported.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, the country’s chief negotiator in the Geneva International Discussions, was present at the ceremony on May 12.

Russia took the commitment to finance the pensions in an agreement signed with Tskhinvali authorities in Moscow on November 25, 2016, and ratified by the Russian Federal Council on April 3 this year.

As a result, the pension payments for the residents living in Tskhinvali Region are to reach the level of the pensions in the North Caucasus Federal District of the Russian Federation, which, according to the Russian Government, is 10 410 Russian rubles (185 USD as of May 15, 2017).

The exchange of notes comes less than a month after Moscow released two orders on covering the salaries of public servants in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia.

On April 15 2017, the Russian Government issued an order on “co-financing” salaries for the employees of the state and municipal agencies of South Ossetia. A day earlier, on April 14, Moscow issued a similar order for Abkhazia. Both orders were signed by the Prime Minister, (and former President), Dmitry Medvedev.

According to the documents, they were drafted by the Russian Ministry of Labor, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and “other interested federal executive agencies.”

The salaries to be covered by Moscow, according to the two documents, vary among categories of employees between 11 200 (USD 199) and 24 300 (USD 432) Russian rubles for Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, and between 6 207 (USD 110) and 15 691 (USD 279) for Abkhazia. (

Court told ex-president Saakashvili protected Girgvliani’s murderers

A former minister claimed Georgia's former president, Mikheil Saakashvili, protected several high ranking officials from prosecution, as the high-profile trial about the murder of a young bank employee in Georgia eleven years ago continued in Tbilisi on Monday.

The witness on the stand on Monday in Tbilisi City Court was Irakli Okruashvili, a former defense minister under Saakashvili whose falling out with his boss was part of the background for the country's 2007 popular unrest.

But the murder of Sandro Girgvliani, a 28-year old bank employee, took place in February 2006, while the witness heard in court was still a close ally of the President and part of his inner circle.

Okruashvili, who served as a prosecutor general, then Minister of Defense and Minister of Economics during Saakashvili's presidency, told the court that the then-President knew well how the young bank employee was murdered, but preferred to side with the culprits.

“[Saakashvvili] would talk about Merabishvili and others that their punishment would cause the collapse of the [ruling] team and the country,” Okruashvili said on the witness stand with his back to the cameras.

Girgvliani’s murder in 2006, which triggered a massive public outcry, was a hot topic of discussions between government members. Saakashvili first held a neutral stance but then decided to protect then-Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and Data Akhalaia, the head of the omnipotent Constitutional Security Department (KUDI), Okruashvili said.

Girgvliani, who was only 28, was abducted on January 28 in the center of Tbilisi and taken to a forest on the city’s outskirts, where he was tortured to death.

Prior to this he had an argument in a restaurant with a group of men and women that included Merabishvili’s wife, Data Akhalaia and Guram Donadze, the head of MIA’s PR department.

Under tremendous public pressure, several police officers involved in the murder were arrested. They were tried and put in jail. But no accusations were brought against either Akhalaia and Donadze, nor Tako Salakaia, Merabishvili’s wife.

The policemen who were convicted served their prison time under privileged conditions and were given an early release.

Such privileged treatment could only have been ensured by Saakashvili, Okruashvili said in court Monday.

The case loomed over Saakashvili’s presidency until its very end and was one of the key reasons of his failure in the parliamentary elections in 2012.

Georgia was strongly criticized by the European Court of Human Rights for the handling of the case. It said in a ruling that the different branches of state power had cooperated to prevent justice from being done.

Soon after the change of power, the new government started investigating the case. During Georgian Dream’s first year in power, Saakashvili was still President, and during this ‘cohabitation’ period, in a rare admission of error, he said in February, 2013 that the Girgvliani case was ‘a black stain’ on his conscience.

As the trial progressed, the key witness in the case, KUDI official, Oleg Melnikov, who was personally involved in the murder, pleaded guilty in August, 2014 and gave a full picture of the tragic events.

Then in November the same year, with Saakashvili nearly a year out of office, the ex-president was formally charged, and in June, 2015, the court allowed the prosecution’s evidence in the trial, which had to be conducted in absentia, with Saakashvili out of the country and serving in a new position as governor of Odessa in Ukraine.

In addition to Saakashvili, others have also been charged, including Vano Merabishvili, who was found guilty. Data Akhalaia fled Georgia and his current residency is unknown. Tamar (Tako) Salakaia was summoned to the Prosecutor’s Office for questioning in December, 2012 but was not charged. (DF watch)