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The News in Brief

Thursday, October 22
Georgian swimmer refuses to compete in Russian World Championships in protest

A Guinness world record holder and internationally recognised Georgian swimmer is refusing to participate in the 2016 Winter Swimming World Championships after facing visa issues by the host country, Russia.

The Russian city of Tyumen will host the competition next March. The event will be held for the 10th time, and for the first time in the Russian Federation.

Georgian swimmer Henri Kuprashvili – who was the first ever Georgian to participate in the Winter Swimming World Championships in Finland in 2014 – registered for the upcoming competition but was told he must follow special visa regulations to travel to Russia since he was a Georgian citizen.

Kuprashvili, 69, told he was contacted by the Russian Organising Committee, who told him in order to gain a Russian visa and be allowed to participate in the World Championship he would need a special invitation from either Russia’s Foreign Ministry or a "close relative” living in Russia. The Committee promised it would help Kuprashvili but he did not think this was fair.

While it is normal for Georgian citizens to need to be invited to enter Russia, Kuprashvili believed his visa should be passed easily as he was attending an international sporting competition and not going for private or personal reasons.

"It is extremely difficult to travel to the country which occupies 20 percent of my country, and now it seems like I have to beg them to let me in,” Kuprahsvili told

"It’s sad that Russian politicians cannot differentiate between sports and politics. It is very disrespectful to the World Championship and to sports in general.

"Why should the World Championship be held in the country where we face an obvious discrimination towards sportsmen?”

It is a poignant fact that at last year’s Winter Swimming World Championship in Finland, Kuprashvili and two other Georgians saved the life of a Russian participant who got into difficulty in the frozen water and was unable to attract the attention of emergency officials. The next day, the same Russian athlete won silver and bronze medals in the competition.

"In that critical moment when a person needed help I did not think about their nationality or about politics,” said Kuprashvili, adding he was obviously disappointed with the event organisers' attitude towards his visa application.

"As a sportsman, I should not need to search for some ‘close relatives’ in Russia or a special invitation from the Russian Foreign Ministry. This is a World Championship, an international contest, not a domestic competition of Russia,” the swimmer said.

Meanwhile, staying out of the upcoming competition meant Kuprashvili will have a four-year pause between competitions; the race is held every two years and the next championship will be held in 2018.

"A four-year pause is a big deal for an athlete as old as me,” said Kuprashvili.

The pensioner apologised to his trainers and sponsors who planned to financially support Kuprashvili’s participation in the world championship for "this disappointment”.

In 2002, Kuprashvili became the first person to swim across the Dardanelles with his hands and legs bound at four points, like a human dolphin. His record has never been attempted by other swimmers.

With his hands and legs bound to his torso Kuprashvili swam 12 kilometres in three hours and 15 minutes from Europe to Asia. (

Constitutional Court Chairman addresses President, Prime Minister, Parliament Speaker

Giorgi Papuashvili, the Chairman of the Constitutional Court, has released an appeal to the President, the Prime Minister and the Parliament Speaker.

“As you are aware, the Constitutional Court of Georgia is the highest judicial body of the constitutional review. Thus, the reputation of its judges, their impartiality as well as the insurance of their independent activity are the key factors of building the confidence towards the court and the precondition of its effective functioning.

“Let me inform you that recent unlawful conduct has been directed against the Constitutional Court of Georgia and its members, jeopardizing the Court's independent, uninterrupted activity. Such unlawful activities have recently acquired an even more organized, coordinated and permanent character.

“On 11 April 2014, a rally was held in front of the Constitutional Court, with the demonstrators making threatening statements related to the activity of the Court. The demonstrators, with this aggressive behaviour, were demanding the Court to make a judgment in accordance with their own goals, and as a result, some property of the Court was damaged. The incident was condemned by civil society representatives, but law enforcement authorities did not respond in any way.

“We are also concerned about the statements regarding revenge-motivated threats made on 6 April 2015 towards the President of the Constitutional Court and his family members in front of the Constitutional Court of Georgia by the participants of the assemblage. In connection with the aforementioned, on 7 April 2015 the Constitutional Court made a written appeal to the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia, Mr. Giorgi Badashvili, and the Minister of Internal Affairs Mr. Vakhtang Gomelauri (reference N01/01/-182), requesting a response to the above-mentioned unlawful conduct. In spite of the fact that more than six months have passed since submitting the written appeal, law enforcement authorities have not informed the Court about the results of their activity nor do we believe that they have undertaken any actual measures in this regard, which shows their utmost disrespect towards the Constitutional Court as well as a violation of their duty to act as prescribed by law to respond to unlawful conduct targeting the Court.

“The reaction towards the decision of the Constitutional Court of Georgia on 15 September 2015 regarding the case “Citizen of Georgia, Giorgi Ugulava vs. Parliament of Georgia” (constitutional complaint N646) is especially alarming. After announcing the decision, the Constitutional Court, judges and their family members have experienced pressure from groups of citizens who gathered in front of the private residences of judges, threw various objects and voiced intimidating statements and threats of physical violence towards judges and their famiies. Such acts clearly endanger the safety of the judges of the Constitutional Court and their family members.

“The assembly of protestors in front of the judges’ private residences, threatening to kill or injure or to destroy or damage the property of a member of the Constitutional Court, with respect to the court hearing or court review of materials, should be punishable. The Constitutional Court made several statements in this regard. Numerous non-governmental organizations condemned the threatening acts against the judges of the Constitutional Court and their family members. The statement was also issued by the President of the Venice Commission. In spite of the above-mentioned, law enforcement authorities have also not responded to the these breaches of the law.

“Ensuring judicial independence, the security of the judges and their family members are the primary duties of a democratic and just state. The indifference of the law enforcement authorities and lack of reaction from high state bodies towards the unlawful conduct against the Constitutional Court of Georgia gives the impression that the state is violating its own obligations prescribed by the law, to secure the protection and independence of judges. Furthermore, it prevents the functioning of the Constitutional Court of Georgia in a safe environment and jeopardizes the implementation of constitutional justice in Georgia.

“I call on you to use your authority as prescribed by the law, to respond to the above-mentioned criminal acts and to the negligence of law enforcement agencies and take proper measures for the timely suspension of the factors which are preventing the continued functioning of the Constitutional Court,” says the address. (Ipn)