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The News in Brief

Thursday, March 18
Armed men check people entering Tskhinvali region through Roki Tunnel

Armed people are checking people entering the Tskhinvali region through the Roki Tunnel, Internet site Kavkazxki Yzel reports.

The Tskhinvali regime opened a checkpoint several days ago at the entrance to the Roki Tunnel. It was previously possible to enter so-called South Ossetia from the Russian Federation without being checked.

"There are armed people on this side of the Roki Tunnel. This has not been seen before. They check the passports of those entering the republic. This began about a week ago and is presumably linked with the meetings scheduled for 20 and 21 March," human rights defender Besarion Aseev stated.

A meeting is scheduled to be held in Tskhinvali on 20 March at which local residents will demand the restoration of living areas and the protection of constitutional rights of so-called South Ossetian citizens. The Tskhinvali de facto administration has not given permission to hold this meeting and its so-called Ministry of Interior Affairs has declared that this protest has been organised by Georgian special services. It also alleges that any attempt by external forces to aggravate the situation in the republic will be nipped in the bud. (Interpressnews)

13 Georgian sailors will probably return by the end of week

The return of the 13 Georgian sailors released from detention in the Philippines has been delayed. One of the founders of the Georgia-Philippines Business and Friendship Association, Levan Akhvlediani, informed Interpressnews that the return of the sailors had been planned for yesterday but the relevant documents had not been processed.

It is assumed the sailors will return by the end of the week. "They have been officially released, but several documents are needed before they can leave the country without problems," Akhvlediani noted, adding that two Georgian Foreign Ministry staff, Giorgi Grigalashvili and Beka Zarandia, are trying their best to bring them back to Georgia.

A ship sailing under the Panamanian flag with 13 Georgians among the crew was detained in the Philippines on 17 August. According to the available information the ship was carrying smuggled weapons. The Philippines court dropped all charges against the Georgian sailors. (Interpressnews)

Spain's police slams Greek colleagues for failure

Spanish police have criticised their Greek colleagues for failing to arrest a Georgian mafia boss during a large-scale detention operation in Europe on March 15.

The head of a Georgian mafia ring smashed by police from several European nations escaped arrest due to a lack of cooperation from Greek police, Spain's anti-corruption prosecutor said on Tuesday. "We did not perhaps have the necessary cooperation on the part of those (Greek) security forces which we needed to complete the arrest of the group's top man," Antonio Salinas told a news conference in Madrid after Monday's raids.

The authorities no longer know where Lasha Shushanashvili is, the prosecutor added. Greek police were informed on Monday morning that he was at a luxury hotel in Thessalonica, Greece`s second-largest city, "but the police tasked with arresting him did not find him," a Greek police source said.

Spanish police detained Shushanashvili's brother Kakhaber - the leader of the European branch of the gang - on Monday in the northeastern city of Barcelona where the group based its operations. He was one of about 80 suspected members of the gang, which stole and trafficked goods around Europe, detained in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Spain on Monday following a year-long investigation.

The suspects are being held on suspicion of the theft of large quantities of jewels and other luxury items, drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering, extortion and conspiracy to murder. Spanish police believe Lasha Shushanashvili is also the likely interim successor to Zakhar Kalashov at the helm of another major Georgian crime group called Avispa. (Rustavi 2)

Board of Advisors established at Ministry of Education

A Board of Advisors has been established at the Ministry of Education and Science. The Minister said that involving experts, professionals and members of society in education and utilising all the resources available throughout the country are very important in ensuring that the ongoing reforms are completed successfully. A Public Board was established for this reason two months ago and now the foundation of a Board of Advisors is underway.

Academic and expert in International Law Levan Aleksidze will chair the Board of Advisors. "With the Board’s support, the reforms will be undertaken with some corrections and with greater capacity. Time is running out" noted Aleksidze.

The Board will be constituted in 10 days. It will have 12-13 members and meet every month. (Interpressnews)

Official arrested

The Investigation Department of the Ministry of Finance has arrested a regional official, Avtandil Kopaliani, on suspicion of fraud and bribery. According to investigators the head of the Tsageri administration took 600 GEL bribes from people involved in the log business. He issued counterfeit documents on the origin and purchase of the logs.

The suspect may face a 6-9 year sentence. The investigation is still in progress. (Rustavi 2)