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The News in Brief

Monday, May 12
Georgian Defence Minister meets US Assistant Secretary of State

Irakli Alasania has ended his official visit to the United States by attending a meeting with Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the US State Department.

The Georgian Ministry of Defence said the parties discussed bilateral cooperation issues between the US and Georgia. Cooperation in terms of defence and future plans were particularly stressed at the meeting.

Georgia's Defence Minister and Assistant Secretary Nuland also spoke about issues in the Caucasus region and ways to ensure regional security. Building up Georgia's defence, signing the Association Agreement with the European Union (EU) and preparation works for the NATO summit in Wales this September were also on the agenda.

In addition, the parties discussed the newest developments in Ukraine and the importance of sharing the experience.

Deputy Minister of Defence Mikheil Darchiashvili and Ambassador of Georgia to the US Archil Gegeshidze also attended the meeting, as well as US Deputy Assistant Secretaries of State Eric Rubin and Thomas Melia.

Five Georgians detained by Russian soldiers released

Five out of 18 Georgian citizens being detained from the Sachkhere province for allegedly illegally crossing the border into de-facto South Ossetia have been released by the de-facto regime last night.

All of those captured by Russian border guards said they were charged with "illegal crossing of border" and fined with 100 GEL each (56 USD).

"We have been under psychological and physical pressure. All of us, five people were placed in one cell and [we] paid money in order to be free," one of released Irakli Zambakhidze stated.

Meanwhile 13 other Georgians remain in custody in South Ossetia.

They were detained by Russian soldiers while picking capers near their villages.

Margvelashvili Says Not Surprised by Decline in His Rating

President Margvelashvili said on May 9 that decline in his favorability rating was expected after former PM Bidzina Ivanishvili publicly criticized him.

President Margvelashvili’s favorability rating, according to a poll conducted in April, decreased from 72% in November to 46% in April.

“Decline in my rating was absolutely expected,” Margvelashvili told journalists after laying wreath at the memorial of Unknown Soldier in Tbilisi where Georgian veterans of the World War II every year on May 9 gather to mark the Victory Day.

“Bidzina Ivanishvili contributed hugely to the success that I had by [receiving] 62% of votes [in October, 2013 presidential election]. Naturally, after criticism voiced by Bidzina those people who were supporting me because of Bidzina, they now voiced opposite view; it’s absolutely natural and also acceptable for me.”

According to the same poll, which was commissioned by the U.S. National Democratic Institute and fielded by CRRC, 40% of respondents disapproved criticism voiced by Ivanishvili against President Margvelashvili in March; 35% took opposite view and 24% did not know.

Georgia plans people’s celebration on national day

For the second year in a row, Georgia will not hold a military parade on its national day of independence May 26.

Columns of military personnel and hardware filing past and saluting their commander in chief became a tradition while Mikheil Saakashvili was president. The event used to be held at parliament in Tbilisi, but in 2012 it was in Kutaisi where a new parliament building had been opened.

That was the last military parade. In 2013, while Saakashvili was still president, the new Georgian Dream government decided to not hold a military parade, but instead celebrate Independence Day by holding many smaller events in more than 20 cities and towns.

Saakashvili’s party, the National Movement, which had recently lost power in the election, criticized the new government for making such a decision.

Saakashvili wasn’t in Georgia, but spent the day with Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan.

The May 26 organizing group met on Friday to discuss the technical details of events on Independence Day this year. The session was attended by representatives from government ministries, Tbilisi City Hall and the president’s administration.

Though the details aren’t worked out, it’s clear that May 26 will be a “people’s day”, according to the government’s press office. There will be no military parade, and events will be directed at engaging people in the celebration as much as possible and will be held in different places all over Georgia.

A plan for the events will be sent to the government’s May 26 commission which will meet for a first session on May 15 and is chaired by Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili.
(Democracy & Freedom Watch)

US Navy, Georgian coast guard hold joint exercises

Personnel of the U.S. Navy frigate USS Taylor stationed in the Georgian Batumi port is holding drills jointly with the Georgian coast guard officers.

USS Taylor entered the Black Sea port of Batumi on May 8 on a friendly visit. On May 8, USS Taylor completed joint exercises with four Romanian ships.

It is the second time when USS Taylor visits a Georgian port. The first it visited Georgian port of Poti in December 2008.

"USS Taylor's presence in Georgia is emphasized by the United States' desire to strengthen ties with NATO allies and partner countries, such as Georgia, and to promote peace and stability in the region together with them," according to a message from the U.S. embassy in Georgia.

The flagship of the U.S. Navy Sixth Fleet - USS Mount Whitney conducted drills with the Georgian coast guard six months ago.