Georgian Aviation Day marked at Alekseevka Military Airfield
The 25th Jubilee of the Georgian Aviation was marked at the military airfield of Alekseevka Combined Air Squadron. Minister of Defence Levan Izoria, Chief of the General Staff of the GAF Major General Vladimer Chachibaia, Aviation and Air Defence Commander LTC Sergo Ninua, Ministry of Defence representatives and high ranking officers attended the 25th anniversary .
Before beginning the celebrations, Minister laid wreath on the memorial of hero warriors fallen in fights for the territorial integrity of Georgia. A solemn ceremony was opened by the Georgian State Anthem. To honour the memory of the fallen soldiers, the invited guests held a minute of silence.
Defence Minister addressed the military personnel and congratulated them on the 25th anniversary of the formation of Georgian aviation. Minister Levan Izoria focused on the implemented defence reforms and informed the audience about the future plans of modernizing military equipment in cooperation with Georgia`s strategic partners and purchasing unmanned aerial vehicles.
The MoD leadership awarded the military servicemen with service medals and presents. Minister Levan Izoria granted four military servicemen a 7,62X54 mm sniper rifle and Major General Vladimer Chachibaia awarded two military servicemen with service guns. LTC Sergo Ninua bestowed medal “Devoted to Motherland” on five military for 20 or more years of outstanding military service and II rank medal “For Impeccable Service in Defence System”- on one military serviceman.
After the event, the military equipment was displayed at the military airfield.
The formation of the Georgian military aviation dates back in August 20 1918, when the first Georgian Military Aviation Unit was formed under the decision of Georgian Parliament. In February of 1921, Georgian military pilots fought vigorously against the Soviet occupation and carried out several successful attacks against the adversary near Tbilisi.
After Georgia regained independence in 1992, Military-Air Force and Air-Defence Division was established which was made into the Main Division in 1993. In spring of 2010, Military Air Force became subordinated to Land Forces. Today, Aviation and Air Defence Command is in the subordination of the General Staff of the GAF.
In the last period of time, the qualification and combat preparation level of engineer-technical personnel and pilots has significantly improved through numerous exercises and trainings on the basis of multi-annual cooperation with NATO and Partner countries. With the help of the allied countries, Georgian military education system was streamlined as result, National Defence Academy and Giorgi Antsukhelidze NCO Training Centre are preparing aviation officers and sergeants.
GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBLE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH RISKS AT ANAKLIA PORT SITE
Government Has Neglected Management of Site After Unlawfully Seizing The Property
TBILISI, GEORGIA, 15 October, 2020 – Residents of Anaklia and the surrounding area face health and environmental risks due to the Georgian Government’s neglect of the site intended for the now-suspended Anaklia Deepwater Sea Port, according to the Anaklia Development Consortium (ADC), the company originally selected by the Government of Georgia to develop the strategic Anaklia Port Project.
As part of its project development efforts, ADC prepared a comprehensive Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) in accordance with policies of the International Financial Institutions (EBRD, ADB, AIIB, OPIC), which included rigorous environmental and social protection steps that satisfied not only all Georgian legal requirements, but also best international standards.
In 2018 ADC carried out considerable site preparation work, including a 110-hectare area where soil was removed and cleared of waste, including old structures. ADC received all necessary permits and authorizations from the Government prior to commencing this work.
Even though it was becoming apparent in 2019 that the Government was actively trying to prevent the Anaklia Project from proceeding, ADC persevered in making every effort to continue project construction while protecting the environment from dust emissions. In fact, ADC had prepared for Government approval a thorough plan for managing this issue, with the cost to be carried by ADC.
The Government unlawfully seized possession of the site in February 2020 following its wrongful termination of the investment agreement with ADC. Because of this expropriation, ADC was prohibited from further access to the site and thus was never able to carry out the plan it had designed. Sole responsibility for managing the property transferred to the Government.
However, left barren, the site is now generating considerable volumes of dust, causing damage to the environment as well as threatening nearby residents with potentially serious respiratory health problems. Even though the Government understood the steps it should take to manage these environmental and health risks, it took no action, leading to the situation which exists today.
“The Government of Georgia has been acting recklessly and irresponsibly by unlawfully terminating the investment agreement and ignoring the very real health and environmental problems it created when it failed to follow the plans that ADC had proposed for managing this site or taking any other remediation actions,” according to a statement from ADC. “The Government is putting peoples’ health at risk and harming the environment by allowing this site to deteriorate. ADC calls upon the Government to act immediately in the interest of the people of the region. By neglecting to manage this property and failing to assume responsibility for the health and environmental harm it is creating, it would appear the Government has no interest in any future development of a modern port at Anaklia, belying the many promises it has made. The Government is walking away from its responsibilities.”
Further details of the Anaklia Port project and ADC can be found at http://anakliadevelopment.com
Georgian Prime Minister Congratulates Muslim Clerics on Eid al-Adha
The strength of our country is in our diversity; for this reason, we have always cared for this diversity and we will continue to do so in the future, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia stated while congratulating Muslim clerics on Eid al-Adha.
As the head of the government noted, it is important that the representatives of all religions in Georgia work and care for the country's future together, and this will continue in the future as well.
"I congratulate all Muslims living in Georgia on Eid al-Adha. Unfortunately, we are unable to celebrate this holiday in the appropriate manner due to the spread of the virus but, hopefully, this will be the first and the last time this happens. The strength of our country is in our diversity. For this reason, we have always cared for this diversity and we will continue to do so in the future. Our Muslim brothers are our brothers just like all other citizens of Georgia. We are building this country together; we are working and caring for the future of this country together. Most importantly, we are doing this together, successfully, and we will continue to do so in the future. I would like to once again congratulate every Muslim on this occasion and I hope that just as we have worked hard together so far, we will achieve a victory over this virus as well. I would like to wish you success, health, and joint work for the future of this country, for the future of your community. We must care for each other, we must respect and take care of each other's faith, and we must build this country together," Giorgi Gakharia stated.
As Mufti of All Georgia Adam Shantadze noted during the meeting, which was held at the Administration of the Government, all Muslim citizens of Georgia are imbued with a patriotic spirit and are trying to make their contribution to the democratic development of the country, as well as to the creation of a strong, unified state.
"We are glad that hospitality has become a tradition under your leadership. This pleases us and gives us more motivation. We too will spare no effort to contribute to the strengthening and development of our country. We are a country of great traditions, history, and culture. For centuries, people belonging to different faiths and ethnicities have lived hand in hand, harmoniously, as brothers in this country and everyone made their own contribution to the development of this country. This is still the case today. Every Muslim citizen of this country is imbued with a patriotic spirit and we are trying to lay our share of bricks for the democratic development of this country, as well as for the creation of a strong, unified state," Adam Shantadze stated.
Press Service of the Government Administration
Georgian Military to undergo RSM Pre-deployment Training in Georgia instead of Germany
For the first time Resolute Support Mission pre-deployment mission rehearsal exercises for Georgian soldiers is being conducted in Georgia with help of American military staff. Before, such exercises were conducted in Germany where the military units got final evaluation. But currently pre-deployment mission rehearsal exercise is conducted on the Georgia Defence Forces military base. This attests to Georgia’s compliance with NATO standards and is another clear example, that Georgia has capacity and capability to successfully conduct international level exercises on Georgian soil.
The 13th Battalion of I Infantry Brigade is preparing for participation in the international mission. Today three training zones were arranged in Vaziani – the first unit performed cordon and search operation, second unit was responsible for protection the base and the third unit provided evacuation of the wounded soldiers. Around 600 military personnel participate in the closing exercise, which is the final component of 4-month long intensive preparation. Each stage of training will be evaluated that finally defines readiness level of the battalion to carry out the RSM. Pre-deployment training launched on June 5 and will come to an end on June 15.
Pre-deployment training is provided by JTEC sub-organization - Peacekeeping Operations Training Center (PKOTC) together with USMC. To date, around 18 000 Georgian military personnel underwent pre-deployment trainings and subsequently served alongside American personnel in ISAF and RSM operations.
Azerbaijan celebrates Republic Day: Relying on the roots and confidently looking to the future
Republic Day is a significant date in the life of Azerbaijan. On May 28, 1918, the Declaration of Independence of Azerbaijan was proclaimed in the historical Viceroy’s Palace in that time Tiflis. Thus, the centuries-old tradition of statehood of the Azerbaijani people was revived in a new form of secular democratic republic. Becoming the first republic in the Muslim East, Azerbaijan affirmed the equal rights of all its citizens, regardless of gender, religious, ethnic or social affiliation. In the country, earlier than among many leading European nations, women's suffrage was guaranteed. All ethnic groups were represented in the Parliament of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR).
Noteworthy is such an important circumstance as – ADR closely coordinated its efforts in the foreign policy arena with the Georgian Democratic Republic. So, in 1919, our countries concluded a defensive pact against the common threat posed by Denikin’s troops. The independence of both states was de facto recognized by the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers under a decision of January 11, 1920. It is truly symbolic that the sketch of the ADR coat of arms, taken as the basis of the current coat of arms of the Republic of Azerbaijan, was proposed by Prince Alexander Shervashidze, who was then in Baku.
Alas, that time global political situation did not allow Azerbaijan to maintain its independence. In April 1920, Baku was occupied by the Red Army. And less than a year later, the Georgian Democratic Republic fell under the blows of the Bolsheviks. All this once again demonstrated that the destinies of our countries are intertwined with history. The successes of one lead to the good of the other. And vice versa, the trouble of one is reflected in the next.
Being a part of the USSR, Azerbaijan also strove to develop friendly contacts with Georgia; outstanding representatives of the intelligentsia of both countries were connected by warm and close relations. Our peoples continued to crave for each other. The crown of this cooperation was the friendship between the leaders of the republics – Heydar Aliyev and Eduard Shevardnadze, whose activities laid the foundations for the restoration of the countries’ independence.
Returning to the leadership in Azerbaijan after the collapse of the Soviet Union and taking the country away from the edge of the abyss in 1993, Heydar Aliyev began to systematically strengthen the foundations of statehood. He became a true architect of the today’s Republic of Azerbaijan, identifying key areas and a strategy for its development. It is no coincidence that the main export pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, the construction of which through the territory of Georgia became the triumph of Heydar Aliyev’s oil diplomacy, is inextricably linked with his name.
Relying on the strong foundation of modern effective statehood, the Republic of Azerbaijan, under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev, has developed successes in all areas: reducing poverty from almost 45% in 2003 to less than 5% by now, developing social infrastructure, technological modernization, stimulating the non-oil sector, ensuring dynamic stability within the country and strengthening its prestige in the international arena. In this connection, it’s enough to recall at least such momentous events as the election of Azerbaijan as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council from a group of Eastern European states for 2012-2013 and the country's chairmanship in the Non-Aligned Movement, uniting 120 states, which began in 2019.
Azerbaijan is successfully building up cooperation in all significant vectors: from the European Union to the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to the Council of Europe, from NATO to UNESCO, etc. Of course, the strengthening of strategic partnership with neighboring countries occupies a special place in the system of priorities, and among them Georgia traditionally plays the role of our closest good neighbor, whose brotherhood has passed the test of the long history and the collisions of the present stage.
Our countries, like a hundred years ago, continue to coordinate their activities, invariably provide mutual support to each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Like a hundred years ago, we have similar problems, we feel common pain. One fifth of the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan is under occupation. A fifth of Georgia’s territory has also been occupied.
The people and the state of Azerbaijan are determined to restore international law and justice, to ensure the violated rights of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons who have been subjected to ethnic cleansing in their own country and forcibly expelled from their homes. Strengthening the Azerbaijani state’s power significantly increased the ability to assert its rights and eliminate the consequences of the illegal use of force against it. And everyone can be sure that the success of Azerbaijan in this direction will create conditions for improving the situation in the region as a whole.
Today, celebrating Republic Day, the Azerbaijani people rely on their own strengths and actively use the potential of international cooperation. We are convinced that only by developing a mutually beneficial partnership it’s possible to confidently continue forwarding on the path of progress and prosperity. In its turn, the progress and prosperity of Azerbaijan will always benefit its good neighbors and Georgia, of course, in the first instance.
Press Service of the Embassy
of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Georgia
Mistrust, chaos and panic: how disinformation affects people and what can be done about it
“Americans can create biological weapons”, “Georgia deliberately infects mosquitoes and sends them to Russia”, “Data on mass deaths in Georgian laboratory published”.
These are not lines from an apocalyptic Hollywood thriller, but examples of Russian media reports about the Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research, located on the outskirts of Tbilisi. The laboratory is a partnership project between Georgia and the United States. But the centre’s activities for some reason worry Russia, which is spreading disinformation and propaganda about the laboratory.
“In September 2018, the whole world was talking about Russia’s use of the Novichok nerve agent in the UK. At the same time, Russia began to talk about the Lugar laboratory as a place where the United States allegedly produced biological weapons for use against the Russian Federation,” says Sopo Gelava, a researcher at the Georgian Media Development Fund.
If you type “Lugar Lab” into Google or YouTube search engines, you will see that most of the frightening news about it is produced by Russian media. To counter these myths, the Lugar laboratory opened its doors and showed what was going on inside.
“More Russian journalists visited the laboratory than Georgian ones,” says Paata Imnadze, Scientific Director at the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia.
But even regular tours of the laboratory did little to change the Russian media narrative. For example, the Russian news agency Sputnik described the “open day” at the laboratory in a dismissive and suspicious way.
Of course, not a single one of the “sensational” statements by Russian media about the Lugar laboratory was true. All of them were disproved by health experts. But these statements achieved the desired effect – 20% of Georgians believe that the laboratory contributes to the spread of epidemics. This is how disinformation works in the post-truth era.
Disinformation = mistrust, chaos, panic
In 2017, the European Union launched the EUvsDisinfo.eu online portal to counter disinformation from Russia. It is published in three languages - English, Russian and German. The site has a disinformation database, which so far contains nearly 8,000 examples of disinformation starting from 2015.
Half of the disinformation messages were directed against six countries – all former Soviet republics – Azerbaijan (31), Armenia (80), Moldova (132), Belarus (252), Georgia (345), and Ukraine (3,193), which Russia wanted to keep in its sphere of influence.
Many of the examples of disinformation used against these countries are aimed at causing panic, undermining the domestic political situation, intimidating, or increasing military tension (in the case of Ukraine). Often the messages look simply absurd, often they are naked lies or they twist information. But their poor quality doesn’t make them less effective.
“Ukraine faced the highest level of disinformation during the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the invasion of Donbass. These were hybrid propaganda tools in the media and social networks,” says Kristina Zelenyuk, political commentator for the Ukrainian portal Segodnya.
According to the Armenian media expert Samvel Martirosyan, the disinformation market is vast. It employs professionals who are constantly looking for new tools and methods of manipulating people.
“Now you can sow panic in a few hours using social media. Information spreads so fast that it’s almost impossible for people to identify disinformation,” says Samvel.
In March 2020, the European External Action Service published a special report, “COVID-19 Disinformation” with a special chapter dedicated to “pro-Kremlin disinformation”.
In February-March 2020 alone, the EUvsDisinfo database registered over 110 examples of coronavirus disinformation distributed by pro-Russian media. These examples were in line with the Kremlin’s traditional strategy of sowing mistrust and chaos, aggravating crisis situations and public concern. Moreover, misinformation directed at the Russian audience described the virus as a form of foreign aggression. It claimed that coronavirus originated from secret American or Western laboratories. Disinformation for domestic audiences focused on conspiracy theories about “global elites” which deliberately use the virus as a tool to achieve their goals.
Many fake and manipulative news based on shocking conspiracy theories gradually change the perception of information. At first, people simply don’t react to disinformation, then they react to it but don’t believe it, and then, due to the frequency and volume of such materials, they start to believe fake or misleading narratives. This is the goal that organisations and countries that manipulate information are trying to achieve.
“Disinformation is a terrible threat. It concerns not only those who are poorly educated or not well versed in politics. In fact, everybody is under attack,” says Alexander Starikevich, editor-in-chief of the Belarusian ‘Solidarity’ internet portal.
Critical thought ambassadors against fake news
The news agenda in our digital world changes so fast that people simply do not have time for deep analysis of events. That’s why fakes and manipulation are often perceived as real news. Different media, organisations dedicated to exposing fakes, as well as volunteers, are all working on deconstructing fake narratives.
“But this work should not be limited to a small group of people. The whole of society should benefit from it. We must educate it,” says Samvel Martirosyan.
Young people are effective helpers in the fight against disinformation. This is the opinion of Anina Tepnadze, director of the Georgian online media platform On.ge.
In her view, young people know more about disinformation and they are more sceptical. Therefore, they can teach their parents and neighbours how to consume information properly.
“But to engage young people, they should receive a clear message that it is really important, that this is not only ‘their problem’, but an issue for everyone. Then young people can be good ambassadors of truth,” says Tepnadze.
In the view of Alexander Starikevich, to prevent people from believing disinformation, we need to start teaching critical thinking from nursery-school age.
He points out that it is difficult to work with people who have already formed their worldview. “Their reaction is frequently ‘Why are you lecturing me? I understand everything myself.’ But there will always be a part of the audience that is open to explaining, and you need to work with them,” says Starikevich.
There are, however, more radical methods of fighting disinformation – for example, using legislation. Saadat Mammadova, head of the news department of the Azerbaijani CBC television channel, believes that it is necessary to adopt international legislation or a charter to solve the problem of fake news.
“Fake News is turning into a national security issue, a tool that can destabilise the world, and it's time to consider it in the security context,” stresses Mammadova.
Bloggers against disinformation
The growing popularity of social networks has led to the emergence of bloggers as competitors to the traditional media. These bloggers gather large audiences. Bloggers can be good helpers in countering disinformation.
Samvel Martirosyan believes that “people often trust bloggers more than traditional sources of information. Given this degree of trust, opinion leaders can jointly stop waves of disinformation and rumours.”
The popular vlogger from Moldova, Dorin Galben, believes that social networks have become a “nest” of fake news that needs to be unmasked. “Our role [as bloggers] is to reach out to as many people as possible, inform them about the phenomenon of fake news and the impact that ‘fake news’ can have on the future of the country and its citizens,” he adds.
Azerbaijani blogger Seymur Kazimov also speaks about the responsibility of opinion leaders. He believes bloggers should deconstruct fakes and disinformation, and counter them publicly.
“Bloggers need to publicly highlight examples of fake publications of friends or acquaintances, or people they follow. Specific examples always work better than theory,” says Anton Motolko, who is a blogger and civic activist from Belarus. “The first and most important thing is not to become a source of fake distribution ourselves. There is a golden rule here: if you suspect it is a fake, don’t publish it,” he adds.
Georgian TV presenter and blogger Zura Balanchivadze advises to look carefully at the headlines. This frequently helps determine if a particular piece is a lie. “Fake news often has sensationalist headlines or features strong exaggeration. Also, analyse those sites where you see dubious information – ask what type of content these resources usually publish,” adds the blogger.
“Blatant lies are easy to spot. But half-truths or manipulation of facts are harder to discern. Consult with experts in different fields. Learn to distinguish facts from subjective opinions. Do not take everything at face value. Always doubt, think and ask questions,” advises Roman Vintoniv, TV presenter and vlogger from Ukraine.
How to spot fake news
We asked journalists and bloggers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine to share advice on how not to become a victim of disinformation. From their answers we have compiled a list of rules that will help us not to fall victim to manipulation.
ü Always check several sources of information. These can be the media, social networks, or experts. But several sources are a must.
ü You should not rely on information from little-known websites. Look for the same information on trusted, serious and professional news websites.
ü Fake news often comes either from newly-created social media accounts which are thin on content, or from accounts that are imitating well-known news media but on closer inspection are fake.
ü If you are unsure of the information, do not spread it. This will help you avoid becoming a polluter of information flow.
ü Trust yourself, tune in to your common sense. It’s difficult to manipulate a thinking person.
Author: Viktor Kischak