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The News in Brief

Monday, March 10
President: Russia's reconnaissance flights in conflict zones 'provocation'

A flyover by a Russian helicopter and a drone over Georgian police posts in the vicinity of the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on March 6 is a “provocation” to which Georgia should not yield, President Giorgi Margvelashvili said on Friday.

“I perceive this as a provocation. There is a difficult situation in the region as a whole and we should be extremely cautious not to yield to any provocations. We respond to such moves with coordinated work with our international partners,” President Margvelashvili said.

Defense Minister Irakli Alasania said that about 1,000 similar flights have been counted by Tbilisi since the August 2008 war.

“This [most recent] flyover created no additional threat to us in that particular moment in time,” Alasania said, adding that the Georgian armed forces are ready for any possible scenarios. “We are in permanent combat readiness because twenty percent of our territory is under occupation.”

Tbilisi said that Russia’s Mi-8 military helicopter “intruded” from Russian-occupied South Ossetia at 12:20 pm local time on March 6 and flew over Georgian police posts and police buildings located in nineteen villages across the administrative boundary line. On the same day at 6:22 pm a Russian unmanned aerial vehicle “intruded” from Abkhazia’s Gali district and flew over the Georgian police post in the village of Khurcha, close to the administrative boundary line, according to the Georgian Foreign Ministry.

Georgian president to take part in EU summit in Prague

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili will take part in the EU summit to be held in the Czech Republic's capital of Prague. The summit will be dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the Eastern Partnership.

On Thursday, the Czech Republic's new ambassador to Georgia, Tomas Pernitsky, handed over his credentials to the Georgian president. The parties discussed bilateral relations and prospects for future cooperation, the Georgian presidential administration told Trend.

The Czech ambassador noted that his country actively supports Georgia's territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders as well as the country's aspiration for participation in Euro-Atlantic organizations.

Pernitsky thanked the Georgian president for his decision to attend the summit dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the Eastern Partnership and expressed the hope that Margvelashvili's participation in this event will give a new impetus to relations between the two countries.

In turn, President Margvelashvili said the Georgian leadership will, as always, work closely with the Czech Republic's diplomatic mission.

Hundreds from a Georgian mining village demonstrated in Tbilisi

Several hundreds of people from the village Kazreti in southern Georgia demonstrated in front of the government office in Tbilisi on Friday. They demand that the government mediates between the workers and the company that owns the mines in their village.

For the last 23 days, the workers at RMG Gold and RMG Copper have been on a strike, and were joined by ordinary villagers, including teachers, market vendors, and even children.

Their demands are to have improved working conditions, increased salaries and to give about 180 workers their jobs back after they were fired about a month ago. They also want the management of RMG to be replaced.

Nunu Jakeli, a worker at RMG Gold, says people have been waiting for 23 days for the government to get involved and support them in their struggle.

Workers claim that they have difficult conditions at the plant and when many of them attempted to protest against it, more than 180 workers were fired. However, RMG explained that the company is in a financial crisis and was forced to cut down on employees.

Two hours after the rally started representatives of the government office met with four of the workers. Joni Rtveladze, head of RMG Gold Trade Unions, who was among the four meeting with government representatives, told us that they were promised that a special commission would study the dispute.

Health Minister Davit Sergeenko said on Wednesday that the ministry has already selected a candidate to be a mediator. He explained that the process of appointing a mediator was delayed because of consultations with experts of the International Labor Organization (ILO).

He said that the mediator will start work from Monday.

“We will get actively engaged in this process now,” he vowed.
(Democracy & Freedom Watch)

Former state official vows to return to politics

Georgia’s former Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili has announced he will return to politics after five years asylum in France and stand in the Mayoral elections in the eastern Georgian city of Gori.

Okruashvili was the country’s Defence Minister from 2004 to 2006 before he was dismissed. In 2007 he returned to politics, he was involved in controversy and later that year he left Georgia and was granted political asylum in France. He returned to Georgia in November 2012.

Okruashvili earlier said he did not plan to return to politics as elections were "kind of a third league game and a headache” for him. However the current situation, inertness and specific environment in Gori triggered his decision to return. He noted Gori had not been properly appreciated by any government and its population looked at the future not with hope, but with fear.

Speaking on television, Okruashvili also said Georgian Parliament changed the election code in a personal attack against him. The new self-government rules state in order for someone to participate in the mayoral elections, the candidate must have lived in Georgia for a minimum of 5 years, including the last two years.

Okruashvili returned to Georgia in 2012 after spending five years in France, which makes it impossible for him to participate in the elections under the new rules. However, Okruashvili said he would find a solution to act otherwise.

Okruashvili was one of the closest allies of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili and was the country’s Defence Minister for two years, from 2004 to 2006, when he was dismissed. In 2007 he made a scandalous comeback to politics and openly confronted Saakashvili and his Government.

That same year, Okruashvili was briefly arrested at his party headquarters on charges of corruption, money laundering and abuse of office.