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Events that happened in Georgia in 2013:

Tuesday, December 31
President Saakashvili meets New Year in Afghanistan

President Mikheil Saakashvili visited Helmand province of Afghanistan in order to spend New Year’s Eve with Georgian troops. The president congratulated Georgian soldiers on the New Year and wished them a successful return to their homeland. Saakashvili’s visit was accompanied by intensive shooting in the province. However, Georgian soldiers managed to fight off the Taliban’s attack.

Political prisoners released

Georgia officially recognized the presence of political prisoners in the country and released 190 political prisoners from various prisons on January 13. Majority representatives and civil society representatives called the day “historical” when the president and minority representatives emphasized that with this decision, Georgia now faces an “unprecedented threat.”

Prosecutor’s office airs scandalous video footage

The Georgian Prosecutor’s office aired scandalous information and video materials concerning the actions carried out by previous Georgian officials. According to the official statement of the ministry, the previous leadership of the Military Police under the Defense Ministry’s subordination, made dozens of secret video recordings of publicly well-known individuals having gay sex and used those videotapes to blackmail them.

Saakashvili addresses PACE as President for the last time

President Mikheil Saakashvili is visiting Strasbourg to participate in the winter sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) where he addressed the assembly on January 21. In his speech and also during the question and answer session, Saakashvili strongly criticized the new government of his country, as well as the imperial ambitions of the Russian Federation.

PM Ivanishvili attends the World Economic Forum

Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili is visiting the Swiss ski resort of Davos to participate in the annual World Economic Forum. Ivanishvili, who is accompanied by Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze and Minister of the Economy Giorgi Kvirikashvili, held bilateral meetings with leaders of a number of countries on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. Russian media sources report that at one of the meetings Ivanishvili and Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev met and exchanged a few words.

Tbilisi Mayor questioned

The Finance Ministry’s Investigation Service and the Prosecutor’s Office accused Tbilisi City Hall of misspending GEL 5.24 million by creating hundreds of fictitious jobs in a municipal service through which funds were transferred as salaries to United National Movement (UNM) party activists and other public figures. The statement released by the Investigation Department of the Finance Ministry further reads that the Finance Ministry studies the case of TbilService group which the City Hall established in 2006.

Minority assaulted in front of National Library

The protesters gathered in front of Tbilisi’s National Library did not allow the president and minority representatives enter the library building where the president was scheduled to deliver his speech on February 8. Political prisoners were demanding attending the President’s speech and asking questions to him. However, they were not let in by the representatives of the President’s administration. After this the gathered people blocked the main entrance. Minority representatives were verbally abused and physically assaulted by the throng of people congregating outside the library. Minority representatives condemned the crowd’s behavior. Georgian Dream also condemned the fact and blamed the United National Movement (UNM) members for deliberately provoking the incident. Domestic and international organizations also condemned the violent actions of the protestors.

Public health insurance program begins

The new public health insurance program of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs of Georgia went into effect yesterday. Minister Davit Sergeenko met with representatives from medical clinics to introduce the details of the state-funded insurance program. The Healthcare Minister said insured people will be provided with free house visits from doctors and emergency medical services up to 15,000 lari in value per year.

77,000 children live below poverty line in Georgia

Doctors say that one year-old Gogita Abashidze died of malnutrition. Doctors were unable to save the exhausted child suffering from weight deficiency. According to the examination results, the child suffered from pneumonia and poor physical development. UNICEF released a special statement and expressed the fact that malnutrition remains among the major threats to the lives of many children in Georgia. ”Poverty is a leading factor in this. In Georgia, almost 77,000 children live on approximately 2 GEL per day. Children are not well represented in the existing social protection mechanisms.” the statement says.

United National Movement: Rebirth or Death?

The United National Movement held a rally on Rustaveli Avenue on April 19. The main message of the rally was that the United National Movement has changed into a party that would not repeat old mistakes. The ruling force is skeptical concerning this “rebirth” and claims that neither the old or renewed version of UNM has a chance at success.

PM Ivanishvili delivers his first speech at PACE

Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili delivered his first speech at the Parliamentary Assembly of European Council (PACE). He spoke about the reforms his government has carried out and the ones that are planned for the future. The PM also mentioned that he, as well as the whole country, feels a great responsibility towards the Council of Europe.

Agricultural Minister quits

Minister of Agriculture Davit Kirvalidze quit on May 2nd. According to Kirvalidze his decision was related to the arrests of several individuals at the Ministry of Agriculture the previous day. Kitvalidze suggested that his resignation might be temporary and that when the investigation ends he might return to the Ministry of Agriculture. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), on May 1st officers of the Anti-Corruption Agency of the MIA detained several high-rank officials at the Ministry of Agriculture and Mekanizatori LTD Company.

Mob violence mars LGBT events

The rally planned for an internationally recognized anti-homophobia event by the NGO Identoba on May 17 turned violent. More than 2,000 police officers– most of which unequipped to deal with such a large crowd– had been deployed to prevent clashes between the small contingent of LGBT demonstrators and several thousand counter-demonstrators. However, members of the church supporting counter demonstrators group broke through the police cordons and physically assaulted the LGBT representatives. In order to ensure the security of the rally participants, Special Forces transported them to an alternative location, mainly out of the capital via mini-buses.

Former high officials detained on criminal charges

Secretary General of the National Movement Vano Merabishvili and Kakheti’s Regional Governor, Zurab Tchiaberashvili, have been detained by the prosecutor’s office in Kutaisi.

On May 21st, Merabishvili and Tchiaberashvili were summoned for questioning to the Imereti Regional Prosecutor’s Office with regard to the investigation into the state employment program and May 26 events. On the same day, Prosecutor Shota Tkeshelashvili held a special briefing at the Kutaisi prosecutor’s office.

Russian border guards construct barbed-wire along villages in Gori

Russian border guards have started to expand the territories they have occupied in Georgia and started to construct barbed-wire along the village of Ditsi in the Gori region. Russians changed their outposts and relocated along the villages Ditsi and Dvani. According to the information provided by the locals from Ditsi, the occupants have started to install iron-concrete barriers along the village, which is bordering one of the occupied villages, Eredvi. Barriers cross agricultural lands, therefore locals will not be able to work safely in their fields.

Kaladze’s farewell match a success

AC Milan defeated Kakha Kaladze’s team of friends 3-1 in Tbilisi on May 31. However, it was not a usual match, as Kaladze’s friends came from all over the world to make his farewell an unforgettable event at Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena. At the farewell match dedicated to the end of his football career, the former captain of the Georgian National football team, and a member of Dinamo Tbilisi, Dinamo Kyiv, AC Milan and Genoa, Kakha Kaladze, said that without his fans he would have hardly achieved success in his football career.

Georgian death toll in ISAF mission hits 29

Seven servicemen were killed and 9 wounded as a suicide bomber detonated a truck full of explosives near a Georgian Military Base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on June 6. Shortly after the attack, the Georgian Ministry of Defense released a statement and said that “Georgian troops are fully in control of the operational situation in their area.”

Interior Ministry discovers large arms cache in west Georgia

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) has informed that a large storage of explosive materials has been found. Nino Giorgobiani, the Spokesperson for the ministry held a special briefing on June 17 and said that an arms cache was found in the Samegrelo region, in western Georgia. According to Giorgibiani, apart from the explosive material, video footage showing law-enforcement officers abusing individuals, drugs and some data information about the members of the previous government’s opposition was found as well.

UNM lost majority at Sakrebulo

The head of the UNM faction at Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo), Koki Ionatamishvili, quit the party. After Ionatamishvili’s decision the UNM lost its majority. According to the former member of the UNM, the United National Movement “could not transform” and is unable to get a handle on the problems it faces.

Ivanishvili visits Lithuania before the Vilnius Summit

“Our main goal is to achieve an associated agreement with the European Union (EU), which I think is possible.” Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said at a joint press conference with his Lithuanian counterpart Algirdas Butkevicius in Vilnius on July 18th. Deepening bilateral relations, strengthening economic ties and the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit scheduled for November in Vilnius were among the main issues the two prime ministers focused on during the meeting.

Teenage girl found murdered in Batumi Boulevard

Mariam Kochalidze, 16, was found dead on Batumi Boulevard on July 22. The family had been searching for the girl all day, as she did not answer her phone. Kochalidze was found around 7 pm, in a place she used to visit nearly every day, to ride her bicycle and read books. Kochalidze had her throat slashed and a very large stone placed on her back. The family believes that Kochalidze was murdered in an attempted robbery, as her bicycle and iPhone 5 was missing, though her laptop and bag were found with her.

UNM’s David Bakradze wins primaries

The United National Movement (UNM) has finalized its primary elections which revealed their presidential candidate. David Bakradze will be the candidate from the UNM in the presidential elections in November. He also became the leader of an online survey the party had launched.

Four contenders took part in the UNM primaries, held in six towns of Georgia. Bakradze won in all six towns, including in the final one which was held in capital Tbilisi on July 27.

Medvedev said resorting to war was a hard decision

Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev said he had to make the most difficult decision in August 2008, during the Russian-Georgian war. “I remember how difficult it was for me to make a decision. This was absolutely the most difficult decision I have ever had to make.” Medvedev said in his interview with Russia Today.

TSU council elects new rector

Vladimer (Lado) Papava, professor of economics, was elected as Tbilisi State University’s (TSU) new rector, with 10 votes against 2. The post became vacant after the former rector, Alexander Kvitashvili, resigned in June this year. Papava said that no one takes part in elections, if he does not expect victory.

Prime Minister shuts down TV Channel

TV 9 and Info 9, the Tbilisi-based television and news agency, will be closed down on September 1, sixteen months after it was launched. Both media belong to Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s family. Ivanishvili cited upcoming presidential election as the reason behind his decision. He believes that the Georgian Dream (GD) presidential candidate, Giorgi Margvelashvili, will win without any informational support.

Removal of minaret causes controversy

The dismantling of a minaret in the Adigeni region on August 27 resulted in a protest among the Muslim residents of the region. They stated that the action was carried out brutally and that they lacked information concerning procedural obligations.

General Director of the Georgian Public Broadcaster dismissed

Giorgi Baratashvili, General Director of the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) has been dismissed from the post on September 6 for the second time this year. The Board of Trustees of GPB voted for Baratashvili’s dismissal unanimously with 9 notes against 0. Baratashvili already was dismissed from position once, 6 month ago and later restored to his position.

The CEC has a new chairperson

The Central Election Commission of Georgia (CEC) has a new chairperson. At the session on September 11th, the six members of the commission unanimously elected Tamar Zhvania. The decision on electing the new chairperson was made through a secret ballot by CEC members. Manuchar Gamkrelidze and Konstantine Amirajibi were the two other candidates President Mikheil Saakashvili had nominated for CEC chairperson.

Disagreement about Khudon hydro electric power station

A rally was held outside the Courtyard Marriot Hotel on September 19th to protest the construction of the Khudon hydro-electric power station. NGO’s and human rights’ groups claim that constructing the dam will damage the region’s natural and historical heritage.

Saakashvili lashes out at Russia in his UN speech

President Mikheil Saakashvili addressed the UN General Assembly on September 25th and harshly criticized Russia’s illegal activities in Georgia. In his speech, Saakashvili asked the international community to influence the situation in Russian-Georgian relations. “Yesterday, the occupiers have again expelled Georgian citizens from their homes and villages, the homes and villages of their parents and grandparents.” he said.

Margvelashvili wins, UNM ready for “future obligations”

Preliminary results of the Central Election Commission (CEC) confirmed that the presidential candidate of the Georgian Dream coalition, Giorgi Margvelashvili, has won the election with 62%, of the vote. He is followed by the United National Movement’s (UNM) Davit Bakradze with 21% of the votes. Then comes Democratic Movement-United Georgia’s Nino Burjanadze -10%, Labor Party’s Shalva Natelashvili – 2. 8% and the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM)’s Giorgi Targamadze -1%.

Saakashvili gives last presidential speech

Outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili appealed to the nation on October 28. He talked about his achievements, regrets and mistakes. Saakashvili will be the first Georgian president stepping- down after serving his second and final term in full. Referring to the results of the October 27 presidential election in which the United National Movement (UNM)’s Davit Bakradze finished second with 21.7% of the vote. Saakashvili said that “this second place creates a firm foundation for further struggles and victories.”

Irakli Gharibashvili named new Prime Minister

Minister of Internal Affairs (MIA) Irakli Gharibashvili was named as the future Prime Minister of Georgia. Outgoing PM Bidzina Ivanishvili said on November 1st that Gharibashvili worked miracles at the MIA and will be able to deal with all the challenges of the new position.

The Government of Georgia approves self-government Code

The Government of Georgia approved the Self-Government Code on October 31. The code fully changes the previous vicious practice of self-government and offers a European type of self-government system oriented on the public. The most important novelty is that the number of self-governing cities will increase and instead of the five self-governing cities that exist today which includes Tbilisi, Rustavi, Kutaisi, Poti, and Batumi, this status will be conferred to those cities where the number of population exceeds 15,000 for example: Zugdidi, Gori, and Ozurgeti.

Chief Prosecutor quits his post

Chief Prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili resigned from his post on November 7th. Kbilashvili explained that he wants to leave politics and join the civil sector, like Bidzina Ivanishvili. Most Georgian Dream members described Kbilashvili as an “exemplary” prosecutor, though several added that the new prosecutor should be stricter than Kbililashvili was. United National Movement (UNM) members believe that Kbilahsvili left his position due to internal fighting within the Georgian Dream coalition.

New President, New Constitution, New Era

The oath-taking ceremony of the fourth President of Georgia took place on November 17, in the courtyard of parliament’s old building in Tbilisi. “I, the President of Georgia, before God and the nation, declare to observe the Constitution of Georgia, defend the independence, unity and indivisibility of the country, to perform faithfully the duties of the president, to oversee the security and welfare of the citizens of my country and for the revival and might of my nation and homeland,” Margvelashvili said, placing his hand on the Constitution. After the ceremony, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili stated that “a new era” was beginning in the country and it was an end to an authoritarian regime.

Mikheil Saakashvili: I will refrain from participation in politics

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili intends to temporally refrain from participating in country issues. Through his Facebook page Saakashvili informed that he might continue his activity abroad. “I concluded the last consultations before the Vilnius Summit with EU and European Parliament leaders. Alongside, I am discussing several suggestions raised by leading European Universities concerning the establishment of a new scientific center after my name. I am going to be engaged with such issues currently and refrain from political involvement,” Saakashvili stated, noting that if there is a necessity of his being in Georgian politics, he will stand with his people.

P.S. from Ivanishvili

November 20th was Bidzina Ivanishvili’s last day as prime minister. He has been replaced by the former Minister of Internal Affairs, Irakli Gharibashvili. Human rights, European values, joining the Euro-Atlantic spheres, having the U.S. as its strategic partner, the regulation of relations with Russia are among the issues Ivanishvili wants to promote from the civil sector.

Historic moment for Georgia: EU Association Agreement is initialed

Georgia has finally initialed the Association Agreement with the European Union (EU). The historic moment took place in Vilnius at the Third Eastern Partnership Summit on November 28th.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Georgia has moved closer to NATO

Foreign Minister of Georgia Maia Panjikidze met her counterparts from NATO member countries in Brussels during the ministerial held on December 3rd-4th. At the meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission, representatives of NATO member states and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen praised Georgia’s reform efforts and encouraged the new government to continue to strengthen democracy and ensure cooperation between the government and opposition parties. They also noted the success of the NATO-Georgian Commission, created five years ago.

Georgian Parliament and people express solidarity with Ukrainians

The Georgian Parliament released a statement on December 11th that expresses it official support for the Ukrainian people’s protests against their government’s decision to suspend negotiations with the European Union. “The Georgian Parliament declares its complete solidarity with the Ukrainian people in its struggle for freedom of choice. It expresses concern about the latest events and the use of force against peaceful citizens.” the statement reads. The statement passed by a vote 68 to 0. Georgian MPs confirmed their full support for the Ukrainian people’s desire to join the European family.

2014 state budget approved

Parliament approved the 2014 state budget on December 11th. Setting revenues at almost 7.32 billion lari and expenditures at 7.22 billion lari, the government plans to issue 600 million treasury bills next year. 400 million lari will be used for covering budgetary expenses and the state debt. 200 million lari will be placed as a deposit in commercial banks for long-term business loans. According to the government, there will be 5% growth in the Georgian economy next year.

Homeless shelters spring-up around Georgia

Temporary shelters for the homeless were opened in Tbilisi. Due to the radical decrease in the temperature and the deterioration of the weather, the prime minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili created the Interagency Working Group and assigned it to solve the urgent problems of vulnerable citizens.

Merabishvili accuses Chief-Prosecutor of pressure

Former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, who is currently detained, stressed on December 17 that Chief-Prosecutor Otar Partskhaladze exercised pressure on him. Merabishvili stated that the Chief-Prosecutor threatened him saying that if he did not collaborate with the investigation over the Zurab Zhvania case, heavier conditions would be created for him. Merabishvili stated during the trial in Kutaisi that he was taken to the Ministry of Penitentiary at 2 a.m on Friday. Merabishvili said that Partskhaladze was waiting for him there.

Ugulava suspended from office

A 50,000 GEL fine and suspension from office were the verdicts made against current Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava on December 21 by the Tbilisi City Court. The court rejected the prosecution’s motion seeking Ugulava’s pre-trial detention. The court’s speaker-lawyer emphasized that accusations against Ugulava were related to the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office and he should be suspended from his position until the final verdict over the issue is complete. Charges filed against Ugulava on December 18 involve the misspending of municipal funds, (more than 48 million GEL), for the United National Movement expenses. Ugulava is already standing trial on similar charges filed against him in February 2013. Ugulava and the United National Movement (UNM) claim that the process is politically motivated, aiming at destroying the UNM.

Ivanishvili speaks with Forbes about life after politics

“I will never return to Politics,” former Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, said in his interview with the Russian edition of Forbes magazine. Speaking about his political past and the government he created, Ivanishvili said that the team he left to run the country will never turn into a corrupt government.