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The News in Brief

Tuesday, November 21
Georgia’s Ombudsman Issues Report on Closure of Abkhazia Checkpoints

(TBILISI) – Georgia’s Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili on Monday released a report on the recent closure of checkpoints between the Russian-backed breakaway region Abkhazia and government controlled territory in Georgia’s western Megrelia region.

The report, released on November 16, assesses the humanitarian and economic impact of the closure of two checkpoints between Abkhazia’s predominantly ethnic Georgian Gali district and its adjoining Zugdidi district in Megrelia (known in Georgia as Samegrelo).

“The state of human rights protection in the communities located adjacent to Abkhazia’s Administrative Boundary line, specifically in the Gali district, is gradually deteriorating,” Nanuashvili said in the report, adding that the closure of the two checkpoints earlier this year, “restricts local residents’ freedom of movement and creates unjustified impediments in terms of receiving healthcare services and education.”

Around 3,400 families in 11 villages in the Gali district are “particularly affected,” Nanuashvili noted, saying the closure increased the time and costs of travel to Zugdidi for local residents, including schoolchildren, who regularly crossed the boundary line.

The report also noted that the closure also complicated issues related to identification documents, restricted of the right to education in one’s native language and furthered the discriminatory polices of the secessionist Abkhaz government towards ethnic Georgians in Gali.

“Considering the present socio-economic conditions and lack of human rights protection (in Gali)…there is a risk that the (Georgian) population will leave Abkhazia,” said Nanuashvili in his report, while also calling on the Georgian government to expand its education, healthcare and social assistance programs to residents that remain in Abkhazia.

The Russian-backed rebel authorities in the Abkhaz capital Sukhumi closed two out of the four checkpoints that connect the region with the rest of Georgia on March 5.

A number of countries and international organizations, including the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, the United States, the United Kingdom, Lithuania and Japan, spoke against the decision, stressing that it would restrict the freedom of movement for locals, including schoolchildren and patients requiring medical treatment.

The decision to close the de facto border by authorities in Sukhumi raised internal concerns as well.

The residents of Nabakevi and the surrounding villages in the Gali district, who used the two checkpoints to travel to Zugdidi for school, medical services and commercial activities, organized a protest rally against the decision on January 25.

Georgia’s Longest Tunnel Completed

(TBILISI) -- An 8.5 km-long tunnel, part of a railway modernization project, was recently completed according to Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili.

The Kvishkheti-Zvare tunnel, which is part of the Tbilisi-Makhinjauri main railway project.

"The implementation of this large-scale project will increase the efficiency of the railway and decrease travel time between Tbilisi and (the Black Sea port) Batumi. Georgian Railways will do everything to implement the project by 2020. By then, we will have modernized the railway infrastructure in compliance with modern standards," Kvirikashvili said.

The event was attended by the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China, as well as the finance minister and other members of the government.