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The News in Brief

Tuesday, February 23
Tskhinvali Mulls Referendum on Constitutional Changes Related to Joining Russia

The leader of Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia, Leonid Tibilov, has proposed a referendum on a constitutional change that would allow the de facto president to request Moscow to formally include South Ossetia in the Russian Federation.

Addressing the breakaway region’s parliament on February 19, Tibilov suggested that it would be a more flexible form of achieving South Ossetia’s “dream” of joining Russia than holding a referendum directly on whether to become or not part of Russia. He indicated that this “special form” of referendum will give Tskhinvali a “constitutional basis” to initiate with prior agreement with Moscow accession process whenever appropriate.

Calls for joining Russia were frequently heard from Tskhinvali before the August, 2008 war and the issue was emerging time after time since then as well. In October, 2015 Tibilov announced about the intention of holding the referendum on joining Russia, but the Kremlin said at the time that the issue was not a topic of discussion with Tskhinvali. At the time some senior Russian lawmakers said that it was not the best time for such a decision, including because of international context, and there were more cons than pros for Moscow in South Ossetia’s accession to Russia.

“We cannot but be concerned with more and more frequently voiced demands from the western leaders for Russia to reverse its decision on recognition of our republic. We are also concerned about overall sharp deterioration of international situation, developments in Ukraine, Syria and Middle East, getting of NATO closer to the Russian borders, continued bellicose anti-Russian and anti-Ossetian rhetoric in our southern neighbor,” Tibilov told the breakaway region’s parliament on February 19.

“In these conditions we feel the need even more acutely for materializing our long-standing dream of joining Greater Russia and solving the problem of the divided Ossetian people. It is obvious that it is the only way through which we can gain long-term guarantees of security and peaceful development,” he said.

“That’s why we are going to continue consultations this year with the Russian side about holding the referendum. We understand the complexity and delicate nature of this issue and we are not going to create any complications for our strategic partner [Russia] on the international arena, and so I believe that the referendum should be held in a special format,” Tibilov said.

“That’s why it is being considered to put in the referendum a question of adding a clause to the constitution allowing the President to appeal to the Russian Federation with a proposal to accept South Ossetia as part of the Russian Federation.

“It will give us a firm constitutional basis for initiating the issue of joining Russia, and at the same time we will not be obligating the Russian side to react immediately on the results of our referendum. Then, in agreement with the Russian side, we will have a possibility to put forth without delay the initiative over joining Russia,” he said.

Tkibuli coal miners continue strike

Coal miners in Tkibuli in western Georgia are continuing their strike, which began more than a week ago.

They are demanding an increase in wages and better working conditions, particularly warm working clothes for the winter period.

Mindeli and Dzidziguri mines are affected by the strike. The workers say they approached the company that owns the mines – Saknakhshiri - several months ago, explaining their problems, but their requests were ignored, which was why they decided to go on strike.

The miners say that in 2016, Tkibuli was taken off a government list of mountainous settlements, which means that they no longer enjoy favorable terms that are offered to villages and towns in mountainous areas. As a result, they have to pay 20 percent income tax instead of 10 percent.

On Friday, workers met with the head of municipality, the gamgebeli, to explain their problems. Some time earlier, a majoritarian member of parliament from Tkibuli, Eliso Chapidze, met with the miners. She also met with the Director General of Sakhnakhshiri GIG, Vakhtang Chkheidze, to discuss the problems the miners are facing, but no consensus was reached.

The Director called on the miners to return to work, because the strike has harmed both the company and the community.

However, the miners say they will not give up until their demands have been met.
(DF watch)

Traffic banned at Gudauri-Kobi road section

According to the Roads Department of Georgia, traffic is currently banned at the Mtskheta-Stepantsminda-Larsi road (Gudaruri-Kobi section) due to the possible threat of avalanche.

Heavy vehicles and those with a capacity of more than 30 people are not allowed at the Mtskheta-Stepantsminda-Larsi road (Aragvispiri-Gudauri-Larsi section) due to snow and frost.

All other kinds of traffic are allowed to pass, providing snow chains have been equipped.