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The News in Brief

Wednesday, March 11
Zurab Azmaiparashvili leaves office

First Deputy Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs of Georgia has left office, the ministry’s press service has informed IPN.

According to them, Azmaiparashvili has resigned of his own accord due to being appointed Head of the European Chess Federation and no longer being able to work for the Ministry.

Azmaiparashvili’s successor has not been named yet. (IPN)

Georgian battalion leaves for Afghanistan

A farewell ceremony was held at Vaziani military base Monday for one hundred Georgian soldiers who are departing for Afghanistan.

The soldiers, who come from the 31th infantry battalion, are to take part in the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission, which will continue the foreign troop presence after ISAF ended on December 28, 2014.

Resolute Support began on January 1, and consists of 13,500 soldiers, 11,000 of whom are American. It will provide training and support for Afghanistan’s military.

The Georgian battalion will serve six months in Kabul, in accordance with a decree parliament adopted on December 26, 2014.

In total, Georgia will contribute 750 soldiers to Resolute Support. A hundred will serve under US command, while another hundred under German command.

The first one hundred left in January to serve under German command in Mazar-i-Sharif.

The Georgian soldiers are to carry out combat patrol and rapid reaction tasks, and ensure the security of the perimeter of a base, according to the Defense Ministry. (DFwatch)

Georgian Dream may well remain the largest parliamentary bloc - Michael Cecire

Irakli Alasania, Georgia’s former defense minister, has Russia on his mind, writes Michael Cecire, , an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Project on Democratic Transitions, has written in an article titled “The Kremlin pulls on Georgia’’.

“There are very active pro-Russia groups and thousands of protesters who are against Western integration,” he told me recently, referring to the Alliance of Patriots rally. He expressed worry that the current government is downplaying a growing Russian threat. With his own Free Democrats now part of the parliamentary opposition, the ruling Georgian Dream coalition’s ranks of solidly pro-Western parties has noticeably thinned, and the leverage of socially conservative, protectionist factions within the coalition has increased.

But this is probably only the beginning. If trends hold, Georgia’s foreign-policy consensus — long taken for granted in the West — could begin to unravel in earnest. Although Georgian Dream, to its credit, has managed to skate the knife’s edge between geopolitical pragmatism and Euro-Atlantic enthusiasm, it is increasingly losing popularity among once-hopeful voters. As things stand, parliament in 2016 looks like it will be very different from today’s parliament. The pro-Western opposition United National Movement will likely see its 51 seats slashed by half or more. In its place is likely to be a collection of openly anti-Western deputies from Burjanadze’s coalition and the Alliance of Patriots. If it stays together, Georgian Dream may well remain the largest parliamentary bloc, but the introduction of large anti-Western groupings into parliament could compel it to dilute, or even abandon, its pro-Western policies out of political necessity,’’ writes Cecire.

According to him, this trajectory ought to be a cause for deep concern. Even a Georgia that tried to split its orientation between the West and Moscow would likely sink into the quicksand of Russian dominance, as have each of the other paragons of this strategy — Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. This result would mean the consolidation of Russian geostrategic supremacy over the Caucasus and, with it, a complete Russian monopoly over trans-Eurasian energy and trade flows. (IPN)

Georgian media outlet honored for critical journalism during Ukraine crisis

A Georgian online media outlet has been internationally recognized and honored for its critical journalism during the crisis in Ukraine.

The online medium Netgazeti was awarded the 2015 Fritt Ord Foundation and the ZEIT Foundation Press Prizes. These are, respectively, Norwegian and German organisations that aspire to promote freedom of expression and public debate.

Netgazeti, who will receive ˆ15,000 (35,700 GEL) was awarded for "having given its readers a good platform for understanding the conflict between Russia and Ukraine”. The news outlet was also praised for impartially reporting on the details of violations of the rights of Georgian Muslims, violence against women and homophobia.

Netgazeti was nominated for a prize by the German Embassy in Tbilisi and by the Heinrich Boll Foundation's office in South Caucasus.

Meanwhile, a handful of other international media and journalists were awarded the same honors. These winners were the weekly newspaper Pskovskaya Guberniya and its editor Galina Timchenko from Russia, the news agency Slidstvo.Info, as well as journalists Serhiy Harmash and Valentyna Samar from Ukraine.

"[The winners] have not given in to the fear of censorship and reprisals,” said the contest organizers.

The Press Prizes, amounting to a total of ˆ75,000, will be awarded at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo on June 24, 2015. (