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The News in Brief

Tuesday, March 15
IPN news agency showed high standards – Defense Minister

“In this country, where there is a total lack of responsibility, the IPN news agency has shown high standards,” said Minister of Defense of Georgia Tina Khidasheli. According to her, the agency has not insisted that it did not make any mistake.

In her Facebook post, she says IPN is a company where professionals work, therefore they cause more anger in case of making any mistake. “In my view, the IPN news agency has shown high standard, as it has not insisted on being right,” she said.

According to Khidasheli, despite the unsavoury and scandalous nature of the recently-released footage, people should still manage to be reasonable.

However, several days ago, the Defence Minister said that the Defence Ministry and its subordinate agencies have ceased cooperation with the IPN news agency.

Tbilisi, Tskhinvali, Sokhumi Swap Prisoners

Georgian authorities have released four South Ossetian prisoners in exchange for the Abkhaz and South Ossetian sides releasing twelve prisoners of their own as part of a rare deal hailed by all sides as an “important humanitarian act” and a result of “pragmatic cooperation”.

The prisoner swap took place on the Abkhaz administrative border late on Thursday afternoon in the presence of the Georgian State Minister for Reconciliation, Paata Zakareishvili, as well as the foreign ministers from the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Viacheslav Chirikba and Kazbulat Tskhovrebov, respectively.

Three out of the four men released by Tbilisi were arrested in 2005 in connection to an explosion outside a police station in the town of Gori on February 1 2005, which killed three Georgian policemen and injured more than two dozen of people; they were serving life sentences.

In exchange, the South Ossetian side released four men who were serving lengthy prison terms in the breakaway region, and handed them over to the Georgian side at the administrative border of South Ossetia. Also on March 10, the South Ossetian side released the fifth man, who was arrested last autumn for the “illegal crossing of the border”.

In parallel, as part of the deal the Abkhaz side handed over to the Georgian side eight persons, including one woman, who were serving lengthy prison terms in Abkhazia on various charges, espionage among them. This exchange of prisoners, also involving four Ossetians, took place at the Abkhaz administrative border.

Both the Georgian and South Ossetian senior officials, present at the prisoner swap, praised the Abkhaz side’s role in making the deal possible.

Shishani ‘clinically dead’: Syrian monitor

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Islamic State’s field commander Tarkhan Batirashvili, mostly known under his nom de guerre Abu Omar Shishani, has been ‘clinically dead’ for several days, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.

“Shishani is not able to breathe on his own and is using machines. He has been clinically dead for several days,” SOHR’s director Rami Abdurrahman said.

On March 9, major Western news outlets reported that Mr Batirashvili was ‘likely’ killed in an American airstrike in the town of ash-Shaddadi in north-eastern Syria on 4 March.

On 10 March, SOHR denied the reports of his death and informed that he was alive and being treated in a hospital in the Raqqa province in territory controlled by the Islamic State.

The father of Tarkhan Batirashvili, who lives in the village of Birkiani in Pankisi valley, has so far not publicly commented on the loss of his son.
(DF watch)