The messenger logo

The News in Brief

Thursday, May 22
Earthquake experts monitor Mount Kazbeki after landslide

Earthquake experts are monitoring seismic activity on Mount Kazbek following the devastating landslide in Dariali Gorge, northern Georgia, on May 17.

A team of nine geologists, geophysicists and seismologists travelled to the disaster zone earlier today to install micro-seismic stations at the site and monitor earthquakes.

It is believed a mild earthquake struck at the disaster site a few hours before the deadly landslide on May 17. Some believe the 1.1 magnitude earthquake caused the landslide.

Georgian alpinist, Levan Shervashidze, uploaded before and after a picture of Kazbeki on his Facebook page earlier on Wednesday, which clearly showed a huge mass of land had slid off the mountainside and into the gully below.

An Ukrainian man died after suffering severe injuries in the landslide. Rescue teams are continuing to search for seven others who remain missing. So far 170 people have been rescued since Saturday morning’s disaster.

A recent spell of heavy rain and bad weather at the Dariali Gorge hampered rescue efforts and emergency response staff were forced to reduce their searching activities.

It is believed one million cubic meters of land mass flew into Tergi River during the landslide.

Heavy machinery is being used to carve into the riverbed to create a new path to the dammed water after the landslide blocked roads and the valley floor. Workers aim to widen the new riverbed to let the water flow freely.

To prevent further casualties and injuries, all movement at Dariali Gorge is forbidden in case another landslide hits the area. (Agenda.Ge)

Georgia completes first phases of Visa Liberalization process

Georgia is one step closer to gaining visa-free travel to the European Union (EU) after implementing 100 high level changes in the past year.

Since 2013, when Georgia was offered a Visa Liberalization Action Plan (VLAP) from the EU, the country has adopted 50 new laws and legislative changes, 40 legal acts and 10 strategies and action plans.

Georgia’s recent action ensured the country was nearing the end of the first stage of the VLAP and preparing to enter the second and final stage.

Georgian authorities said they expected the country would be appropriately recognized and hoped all its recent actions would be properly reflected at the EU Summit in Riga, Latvia, in 2015.

Georgian deputy Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili said she believed in Riga, the EU would send Georgia a positive message, as it did with Moldova at the previous summit in Vilnius.

Georgia received its VLAP from the EU in February 2013. The Plan consisted of two phases – the legislative stage and implementation process.

All of the recent changes to Georgian law meant the country was about to end the first stage and prepare to enter the next stage of the VLAP.

Meanwhile Moldova was granted a VLAP by the EU in 2011. Earlier this year when the country completed both phases of the Action Plan, its citizens were granted visa-free entry to Schengen area countries. (Agenda.Ge)

More officials granted right to carry guns

The circle of Georgian officials allowed to bear arms in public is expanding.

A change to Georgia’s Law on Arms now allowed the secretary of the State Security and Crisis Management Council and other members of the council to carry a ministerial gun.

Under the existing law, dozens of high level authority figures and civil servants in a selection of jobs were eligible to carry an automatic weapon while on duty.

People already included on the list to carry a ministerial gun include authorized officials of the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Finances, Ministry of Corrections and Ministry of Natural Resources Protection.

Authorized officials of the Intelligence Service, Special State Protection Service, Chief Prosecutor’s Office, judges and court bailiffs can also carry a gun while on duty.

Furthermore, this law extended to collectors and cashiers of the National Bank and other banking facilities (while on duty), Georgian Post officials (when carrying materials of special importance or state secrets), Structural units of the Civil Aviation Security (while on duty), State Audit Presidium members, Security Council members and civil servants who are granted with the title of Senior or Top Officer.

The Council for State Security and Crisis Management was set up in last December upon the Georgian Government’s decision. The council is an advisory board for Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and is under his direct subordination. Accordingly, the Prime Minister is head of the Council. (Agenda.Ge)

Georgian minorities get vital EU information in native languages

Georgian minorities who do not speak the national language will be able to better understand the country’s future and importance of signing the Association Agreement with the European Union (EU) thanks to a plan to translate important documents into five languages.

The coverage will be compiled into Azerbaijani, Russian, Armenian, Ossetian and Abkhazian languages at the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) with support from the Presidential Administration of Georgia.

This decision was made at a meeting between the advisor to the President on National Minorities Sopio Shamanidi and the Georgian Public Broadcaster CEO Giorgi Baratashvili.

Shamanidi said international organizations working to ease issues relating to Georgian minority members said a big problem was lack of awareness of Georgia’s European aspirations, the country’s European integration process and the importance of the AA.

"Awareness is particularly scarce in regions where national minorities live in compact settlements. The reportages will help them understand the benefits their region can face once the AA is signed,” Shamadini said.

The Georgian Public Broadcaster leader said the reports would be prepared "in the near future” and would be aired on the Second Channel of the GPB.

"News program "Moambe” already airs on the Second Channel of the GPB in five languages. We buy broadcasting time at regional TV companies and stream our programme. These reportages will be aired three times a week at the GPB,” Baratashvili said. (Agenda.Ge)

Georgian government’s social media published in Abkhazian

The Georgian Government is looking to widen its audience and has created official Twitter and Facebook accounts in the Abkhazian language.

After Georgia’s civil war in the 1990s, Abkhazia and South Ossetia became breakaway regions of Georgia. Since then, an information vacuum formed between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia.

Georgian authorities said their brothers in Abkhazia did not have enough information about current political, social and cultural events happening in Georgia.

As the majority of Abkhazians did not understand the Georgian language and had no access to Georgian resources, the Georgian Government decided to expand its social media reach and have its words translated into the Abkhaz language. This would help residents in Abkhazia gain a better understanding of the goings-on in Georgia.

"Unfortunately our countrymen living in Abkhazia is only provided with information in Russian on the Internet and in the media, which in many cases, does not reflect the truth,” said the press office of the Georgian Government.

Meanwhile, Georgia is the only country that has taken liability to protect the Abkhazian ethnicity, culture and language.

In accordance with Article 8 of the Georgian Constitution, Georgian is the national language in Abkhazia however the region’s ethnic language, Abkhazian, is also recognized as an official language.

The official website of Georgian Government was renewed in 2010. This was when news and information was first made available in the Abkhazian language. (Agenda.Ge)