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The News in Brief

Monday, January 9
Fire at Pankisi culture center was ‘intentionally set’

A fire that broke out at a culture house in the Pankisi Gorge was intentionally started, a spokesperson for the center told a local radio station.

The building is located in Duisi, the largest village of Pankisi, a mountainous area of Georgia inhabited predominantly by Sunni Muslims belonging to a subgroup of Chechens called Kists.

It was local radio station WAY which first reported the fire on Tuesday. The building on fire houses a center run by the Kakheti Regional Development Fund. There were no casualties, and the fire has been extinguished.

The fund’s director Iza Bekauri said she believes someone deliberately started the fire and that it’s connected to the activities of the organization in the region. Traces of gasoline were found in several places on the second floor.

She said locals have publicly expressed their displeasure regarding some of the cultural events that have been held at the center with the support of the Kakheti Regional Development Fund. Islam prohibits dancing and singing, she pointed out.

“There have been threats that we should get out of the Gorge. They said our work here in this place is unacceptable and we should leave. I am sure this incident was a warning sign to our organization,” Bekauri said.

Officially, the cause of the fire is not yet known. Local police announced that an investigation is underway.

Statistic data on the number of visitors entering Georgia

The Information Analytical Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs presents the statistic data on the visitors having crossed the state border of Georgia during the last month, in particular:

In December 2016, the country was visited by 486 141 visitors, which is more by 4,3% than the index of the same period in 2015.

In 2016 6 350 825 visitors arrived to Georgia which is more by 7,6% than the index of the same period in 2015, whereas 2 714 773 tourists have visited the country this year which is more by 19% than the index of the same period in 2015.

According to the new method of a conditional division the visitors having crossed the state border of Georgia in December 2016 is the following:
a) Tourist – 177 982 visits (36,6%, of general number; increase by 14,8% in comparison with the index of the same period in 2015);
b) Transit – 75 022 visits (15.4% of general number, in comparison with the index of the last year 15,8%);
c) Other – 233 137 visits (48% of general number, increase by -5.1% in comparison with the index of the last year).

The most of the visits in December, 2016 were paid again from Armenia (+9%), Azerbaijan (+4%), Turkey (-17%), Russia (-2%), Ukraine (+14%) and Iran (+375%); positive position is also retained by the EU countries: respecting the number of arrivals to Georgia in December, the following countries took leading position: Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Germany relevantly 24%, 16%, 12% and 11%), Central Asian countries - Kazakhstan (33%), among the countries of Easter Europe – Belarus (28%), Middle East – Israel – 55%), and Asian countries - UAE (9%).Also, the number of tourists from the United States of America has also increased by 10 %.

Traditional Alilo march was held on January 7

The traditional Alilo march will be held in relation to the Christmas feast on January 7. It began near Roses Square at 14:00 on Saturday. Decorations were used during the march.

Hundreds of people usually take part in the march. They passed Rustaveli Avenue, Freedom Square, Pushkin Street and the Patriarchate, where they met with the Patriarch, who blessed the Alilo participants.

Thereafter, procession went to the Trinity Cathedral through Baratashvili Bridge. Some of the march participants headed to the Presidential Residence.

The march ended at the Trinity cathedral. People also gave sweets and presents to the march participants on the way of the procession. All the sweets and presents were handed over to children in orphan houses.

The ‘Alilo’ tradition dates back from the 5-6th centuries. Its celebration was resumed a few years ago.