Batumi docking of the U.S. navy vessel underlines importance of the Black Sea for Euro- Atlantic security, and promotes regional peace and stability - Zalkaliani
Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani comments on the Batumi docking of USS Porter, a United States Navy destroyer.
„Welcome the USS Porter back to the Black Sea port of Batumi for its third visit, which showcases dynamic security cooperation, underlines importance of the Black Sea for Euro- Atlantic security, and promotes regional peace and stability“ – writes David Zalkaliani on his official twitter.
USS Porter, a United States Navy destroyer, is on its third visit to Georgia's Black Sea port city Batumi, the latest visit of the ship follows moorings in the harbour last year and in 2015.
United States Ship (USS) Porter (DDG 78) arrived in Batumi for a scheduled port visit on June 23, as part of the United States’ continued Black Sea presence and support for our regional partners.
The visit serves to highlight the continued cooperation between the U.S. and Georgia by promoting regional peace and stability. This is the ship’s third visit to Georgia. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, personnel will not disembark the ship while in port.
USS Porter is an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer of the United States Navy. The ship is capable of conducting exercises and operations in areas such as anti-submarine warfare and ballistic missile defense.
The U.S. Navy routinely operates ships in the Black Sea consistent with the Montreux Convention and International Law.
USS Porter, commanded by CDR Craig Trent, is forward-deployed at Naval Station Rota, Spain. The ship is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.
Statement on the development of the Black Sea-Caspian Sea International Transport Route signed in Bucharest
Bucharest hosted the joint meeting of the foreign ministers of Georgia, Romania, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan where Bucharest Statement on the development of Black Sea-Caspian Freight Transport Corridor was signed.
The Foreign Ministers of the four countries reaffirmed their political will with respect to the development of new transport corridors in the region.
Signing the Statement, the Ministers highlighted the importance of this transit route in connecting the east and the west. According to them, connecting Central Asia with Europe via the two seas is the shortest and the most cost-effective route out of available transport networks.
Special note was taken of the fact that Romania, as a member of the EU is involved in the development of the new route that will lead to the European Union’s further active participation in transport routes. Romania is the current EU Presidency. According to the Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, the new route will take up a prominent place in the EU-Central Asia Co-operation Strategy that will be approved in summer 2019.
A quadrilateral expert working group will be established to conduct negotiations and collaborate all technical aspects, to optimize operational procedures and to facilitate work on harmonization of tariffs and simplification of customs procedures.
The sides emphasized the achieved progress in development of sea infrastructure, including the upgrading of the Poti Port and the development of the Anaklia Deep Sea Port.
The Georgian side emphasized that the strengthening of Georgia as the region’s logistical hub is one of the Government’s priorities. Various projects are implemented in this regard, including the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, the East-West Highway Development Project, Lapis Lazuli Transport Corridor, Anaklia Deep Sea Port, Persian Gulf – Black Sea Transportation Corridor, Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, etc.
Black Sea-Caspian Sea International Transport Route was launched in Ashkhabad, on 24 and 25 October 2018.
By The Associated Press: Two Ukrainian navy artillery boats and a tugboat were transiting from Odessa on the Black Sea to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov.
MOSCOW — The Ukrainian navy said Sunday that Russia’s coast guard opened fire on and seized three Ukrainian vessels and wounded two crew members in the Black Sea following a tense standoff off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula.
Ukraine's navy said that two of its vessels were struck and that Russian coast guard crews boarded them and a tugboat and seized them. The Russian Federal Security Service, known as the FSB and which is in charge of the coast guard, said that it has evidence that Ukraine was responsible for the clashes.
"There is irrefutable evidence that Kiev prepared and orchestrated provocations ... in the Black Sea," the FSB said in a statement. "These materials will soon be made public."
There have been growing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has steadily worked to increase its zone of control around the peninsula.
Earlier Sunday, Russia and Ukraine traded accusations over another incident involving the same three vessels, prompting Moscow to block passage through the Kerch Strait.
The Ukrainian vessels apparently wanted to travel through the strait to other ports in Ukraine, and Ukrainian authorities said they had given advance notice to the Russians.
The tensions began Sunday morning. Russia's coast guard said that the three Ukrainian vessels made an unauthorized crossing through Russian territorial waters, while Ukraine alleged that one of its boats was rammed by a Russian coast guard vessel.
The Kerch Strait is a narrow body of water nestled between Crimea and the Russian mainland.
The incident began after the Ukrainian navy claimed a Russian coast guard vessel rammed one of its tugboats, which was traveling with two Ukrainian navy artillery boats from Odessa on the Black Sea to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov, via the Kerch Strait.
"Russian coast guard vessels ... carried out openly aggressive actions against Ukrainian navy ships," the Ukrainian navy statement said. It said a Russian coast guard ship damaged the tugboat's engine, hull, side railing and a lifeboat.
The statement added that Russia had been informed in advance about the planned journey.
Russia then blocked off the strait.
The Kerch Strait is the only passage into the Sea of Azov beyond it. The strait is crossed by the recently completed Kerch Bridge, connecting Crimea to Russia. Transit under the bridge has been blocked by a tanker ship, and dozens of cargo ships awaiting passage are stuck.
Russia has not given any indication of how long it will keep the strait blocked off, but a long-term closure to civilian traffic would amount to an economic blockade of Ukrainian cities on the Azov coast. And Russia's Black Sea Fleet greatly outmatches the Ukrainian navy.
Ukrainian cities on the Sea of Azov include strategically vital centers such as Mariupol — the closest government-controlled city to Donetsk and Luhansk, the breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists.
The FSB told Russian news agencies Sunday after the first incident that the Ukrainian ships held their course and violated Russian territorial waters. The FSB accused the Ukrainian navy of staging a provocation against Russia.
"Their goal is clear," an FSB statement said — "to create a conflict situation in the region." The statement didn't mention ramming a Ukrainian tugboat.
Though a 2003 treaty designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters, Russia has been asserting greater control over the passage since 2015.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in an earlier statement that Russia's actions were a violation of the U.N. Charter and international law, and pledged to "promptly inform our partners about Russia's aggressive actions."
"Such actions pose a threat to the security of all states in the Black Sea region," the statement said, "and therefore require a clear response from the international community."
Dmitry Kiselyov, a commentator on the state-controlled Rossiya channel, told viewers of his Sunday evening news program that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — encouraged by the U.S. — is looking to pick a fight with Russia in the Black Sea.
The talk show host also said that the U.S. talked Poroshenko into staging a provocation against Russia as a means to disrupt the upcoming meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at this week's Group of 20 summit in Argentina.
"What is happening now at the (Kerch) bridge threatens to turn into a very unpleasant story," Kiselyov warned.
-- The Associated Press
The authorization board has unlawfully denied the IBSU the right of receiving new contingent of students for one year period
The authorization board has unlawfully denied the International Black Sea University the right of receiving new contingent of students for one year period.
Starting from 2018, the authorization process begun with new standards applied in higher educational institutions operating in Georgia. On April 24-27, the International Black Sea University hosted an expert group headed by Professor Andy Gibbs, an international expert in education from the United Kingdom. As a result of the study analysis and factual circumstances, a team of experts prepared a conclusion according to which the University meets authorization standards: out of seven standards (19 sub-standards) none have been evaluated negatively.
By the decision of the Authorization Board of Higher Educational Institutions of 20 August 2018, the International Black Sea University was granted authorization for 6 years; At the same time, the Board has made a totally illogical and incompatible decision that contradicts the experts’ conclusion; it ignores the positive conclusion of experts and the University is forced to stop accepting the new contingent of students until August 20, 2019. As a result, up to 800 students' choices to study at the International Black Sea University have been ignored, the Board has compelled them to apply to other higher educational institutions. The decision constitutes a threat to students’ legal preferences during two academic years.
The argument for the decision made by the Authorization Board is that the International Black Sea University was imposed a tax penalty in 2013 (the amount of the fine at the current moment is 700 000 GEL and the judicial dispute is still in process). Due to the fine, the property of the university has been sequestered. The university is ready to pay a tax penalty in case of loosing a court dispute. It should be emphasized, that according to the decision of June 4, 2018 of the Revenue Service (# 025-152), sequestration of the university’s property was abolished. The document was submitted to the Authorization Board, however, the Board did not take the mentioned factual circumstance into a consideration.
The Board’s position is groundless and unfair due to the following reasons: Firstly, real estate and other assets of the International Black Sea University greatly exceeds 700,000 GEL; secondly, the decision made by the Authorization Board reduces the revenue of the university up to 2 million GEL only this year (which normally would have been used for various educational purposes). The question is whether or not limiting the university's income is an adequate measure when the Board (unreasonably) considers the material instability to be university’s main problem?
Besides, according to the authorization experts’ report, the university's material and financial resources are in full accordance with the requirements. It is clear, that the Authorization Board ignores a qualified assessment of its local and foreign experts.
The irresponsible decision of the authorization board hinders the development of one of the leading and internationally recognized universities in Georgia which has 23 years of successful academic experience, is known for its graduates' high employment rates and cooperates with more than 60 international universities. Up to 2000 international and local students are currently studying in the university, it employs 400 qualified staff members.
We apply to NGOs and international organizations, diplomatic corps and the whole civil society to support the International Black Sea University in its fight against injustice.
We refer to the Government of Georgia to take appropriate measures in order to prevent the damaging of the country’s international reputation, democratic values, freedom of entrepreneurial activity and to protect the educational sphere from unhealthy influences.
Administration of International Black Sea University
US military equipment which was sent from Port of Constanța, Romania to participate in the multinational exercise “Noble Partner 2018” has already shipped to Georgia. US armored vehicles “Stryker”, armored vehicles “Bradley”, M1A2 Abrams tanks and other military equipment have already downloaded in Poti Port, Georgia. The part of the equipment will be transferred to Vaziani by lorry, part of it – itself by marching.
US military equipment were loaded in Port of Constanța, Romania and launched for Georgia via the Black Sea on July 22.
Military personnel of II Cavalry Regiment have already arrived to Tbilisi International Airport via air. The part of US soldiers will arrive to Georgia up to July 31 stage by stage.
The multinational exercise will officially be opened in Vaziani military airfield on August 1. “Noble Partner 2018” is a Georgian Armed Forces and US Army Europe led exercise, which intends to enhance participating nations’ readiness and interoperability.
On 14 March, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited his last destination in the pre-election tour—occupied Crimea. The first thing he inspected there was the Crimea bridge, a project set to link continental Russia with the newly-annexed territory.
Currently, Russians have to deliver goods and people to the peninsula only via planes, ships or ferries, as there is no connection by land. In order to change this, the Kremlin decided to build a 19-kilometer-long bridge across the Kerch Strait which separates Crimea from Russia’s Krasnodar Krai. The project was agreed in January 2015. The contract for the construction worth $3 billion was signed with SGM Group, which belongs to Russian oligarch Arkady Rotenberg, a close friend of Putin.
In May 2015, construction of the bridge commenced; the road bridge is planned to open on 18 December, 2018, while completion of the rail link has been delayed until the end of 2019. Delays have increased the cost of the project significantly. As of 1 March, 2018, the project’s costs had exceeded $4 billion.
Meanwhile, even at the construction stage, the bridge causes irreversible harm to the ecology of the Black Sea and Azov Sea. Additionally, it also damages Ukraine’s economy and puts political pressure on Kyiv. Here are the major reasons why the Crimea bridge is dangerous for Ukraine and for the entire Black Sea region.
The bridge damages Ukraine’s economy
As the Azov Sea is the place where Ukrainian and Russian economic interests intersect, this Russian project will inevitably damage the economy of the region and Ukraine as a whole.
First and foremost, the project of Crimea bridge set limits on the number of ships which head to Azov Sea ports through the Kerch Strait. Konstantin Batozsky, the director of Azov Development Agency, explains to UkraineWorld that all ships longer than 160m, wider than 31m, whose draft is bigger than 8 meters, or are higher than 33 meters, will not physically be able to pass under the bridge. Panamax ships, a popular type of cargo vessels, do not fit in these limits. “This will limit the amount and range of cargo which could be shipped to and from Mariupol and Berdyansk — Ukrainian Azov Sea ports — significantly,” says Batozsky. For instance, metallurgy products and containers will now have to be shipped through Black Sea ports. This fact means that more money will be spent on the transportation of goods by land, while the infrastructure of the ports in Mariupol and Berdyansk will degenerate. Such a scenario could lead to enormous non-receipt of profits, which would add up to those sums caused by the annexation of Crimea.
Additionally, these limits potentially do not allow Ukraine to potentially launch gas and oil field exploration in the shelf of the Azov Sea. Offshore equipment necessary for the exploration is larger than the limits set by the Crimea bridge, Batozsky points out. As a result, this option for Ukraine to strengthen its energy security is closed.
It is an instrument of Russian aggression against Ukraine
The Crimea bridge is first and foremost a political project, which is aimed to achieve several goals with one shot.
First, it is set to secure the annexation of Crimea. “For Putin, the Crimea Bridge is comparable to the Baikal–Amur Mainline [a major railroad built in the Soviet Union to connect Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East],” says Alim Aliyev, the manager of The Crimea House, in a conversation with UkraineWorld. According to him, Putin intends to use the bridge to show people in Crimea that Russia cares about them. Meanwhile, the bridge would allow Russia to move all kinds of cargo quickly to the peninsula, including military equipment, thus securing the annexation.
Second, Russia, will be able to close the Kerch Strait for all ships. Such a move would effectively turn the Azov Sea into a lake and enable a trade blockade of Ukrainian ports. Russia could use this in number of ways. For instance, the blockade could be leverage to make Kyiv resume energy and water supplies to the peninsula.
It should be noted that Russia’s actions violate the previous agreement between Ukraine and Russia on common use of the Kerch Strait. Russia also goes against the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which says that states bordering straits shall not hinder transit passage and shall inform accordingly about any known threats to navigation in the strait. This potentially gives Ukraine an opportunity to sue Russia, but this has not happened so far. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry did not respond to UkraineWorld comment request regarding this.
It is potentially dangerous for the ecosystem of the Black and Azov Seas
Construction works have already had an effect on the ecosystem of the Black and Azov Seas, says Alim Aliev, the manager of The Crimea House, in a conversation with UkraineWorld. When the bridge is finished, the danger will be even more real.
Due to mud volcanoes, seismic activity and a sludgy bottom, the Kerch Strait is hardly suitable for a bridge. Heorhiy Rosnovsky, a Ukrainian architect who has previously drafted two projects of a Kerch Strait bridge, tells Focus magazine in an interview that Russia has chosen the least viable option to implement the project. He says that the current project does not take all the above-mentioned problematic factors into account, so the chance of collapse is rather high. The collapse of a massive bridge with wide piers would inevitably slow down water flows between the seas through the Kerch Strait. While construction already results in a change of the living environment for all the organisms in both seas, the bridge’s collapse would be a catastrophe. However, the full scale of the bridge’s influence on the Azov and Black Seas cannot be forecast at the present time.
Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko announced on 12 December, 2017 that Ukraine will submit an appeal to the countries of the Black Sea Cooperation for an investigation to be carried out of the potential damage of the bridge to the ecosystem. However, as of March 2018 no conclusions had been published.
Few considerations, no regards
There is no doubt that the Crimea Bridge will be completed. Pavlo Kazarin, journalist and observer at Krym.Realii, pointed out in a commentary for UkraineWorld that for Putin this project is one of those cases which prove his imperial ambitions. “It does not matter how much money it will cost, as he [Putin] is the one who allocates the funds. The construction could encounter major delays, but it will be completed eventually,” he emphasized.
Putin’s imperial ambitions and vanity have pushed him to rush the Crimea bridge project. Hopefully, haste and corruption during the construction works will not cause its destruction. However, the damage to the region of the Black and Azov Seas, as well as to the Ukrainian economy, has already been done.
This article has been first published on ukraineworld.org
A special ceremony to pay tribute to the Georgian soldiers who went missing during the military training in the Black Sea was held in Gonio. Minister of Defence of Georgia arrived in Gonio with his Holiness and Beatitude, Catholicos-Patriarch of all Georgia Ilia II. Chairmen of Adjara Government, personnel of Special Operations Forces and Coast Guard Department attended the special ceremony as well. Patriarch met with the family members of missing soldiers, blessed them and later held a public prayer.
The military tribute ceremony for the missing soldiers - Corporal Iago Sharadze and I Class Private Giorgi Nanetashvili started with hoisting the national flags of Georgia by the Honor Guard on the coast of Gonio. The representatives of MIA Coast Guard Department put two wreaths in the Black Sea. Along with firing a salvo, soldiers of the National Guard handed the flags of Georgia to the family members of missing soldiers.
“I came here to pray with you. May god help them to appear soon. Whole Georgia encourages you and worries that we could not find them yet. God bless them. Our prayers will have great power and we will soon meet them. God be with us!”- said Ilia II.
Minister of Defence thanked the Catholicos-Patriarch for arriving in Gonio on behalf of the Ministry of Defence and said: “This is expression of great encouragement and support toward missing soldiers by our society. This is the expression of thoughtfulness. This is our job to take care of devoted and brave people – our soldiers, the members of our big family. I express once more my condolences to the members of the missing soldiers. We’ll always support them.”
Elene Makridis, mother of Corporal Iago Sharadze thanked everybody, who attended the tribute ceremony on the coast of Gonio: “Thanks for coming and paying tribute to Ministry of Defence and his Holiness and Beatitude and all of you.”
Along with the ceremony on the coastal area of the former Gonio firing range the search and rescue operations still continue. The search and rescue operation is conducted by Ministry of Defence with its own capacities and maximum resources. According to the given situation, Georgian side may address international partners with the request to get involved in the search and rescue operations.
The body of young man was ashore in Batumi, at Chorokhi beach. According to the Head of Emergency Situations Management Agency of Adjara Mamuka Turmanidze, the dead person is born in 1980. He was missing from today morning.
According to him, the searching operation was underway. His body was found a few minutes ago.
The President of Georgia with the Delegation of Georgia has already come to the NATO Warsaw Summit.
“We are with our friend here. We are working on the strategy how to make the world, Black Sea and Georgia more secure place,”-said Giorgi Margvelashvili before the Summit.
According to the Presidential Administration, the official ceremony of welcome will be held. President of Georgia will also attend working dinner in the evening.