2020 Compilation Report on the human rights violations in the Russia-occupied territories of GeorgiaMonday, 15 February 2021 13:10
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia prepared 2020 Compilation Report on the human rights violations in the Russia-occupied territories of Georgia, which is based on the documents adopted within the international organizations.
The Report covers the difficult human rights situation in the Russian-occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, including the facts of discrimination, violations of the right to life and health, right to native language education, illegal detentions, kidnappings.
The Report aims to update the international community on the human rights violations in the Russian-occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions.
2020 Compilation Report on the human rights violations in the Russia-occupied territories of Georgia was prepared in English and is available at the link below.
All responsibility for the Gakheladze case rests with Russia taking its aggressive actions to overweigh in importance the international support for Georgia – Lasha DarsaliaMonday, 08 February 2021 11:16
According to him, Russia never takes such steps spontaneously. Rather, it is following its own plan. “The maximum escalation of the situation is part of the hybrid war Russia is waging against Georgia and this war has its foreign-political and domestic dimensions” – the Deputy Minister said.
According to Lasha Darsalia, by undertaking aggression and attempts of destabilizing the situation, Russia tries to overweigh in importance the international support for Georgia and the fact that the Russia-Georgia conflict is currently one of the key items on the international agenda. The Deputy Minister added that “this support is further reaffirmed by the fact that the OSCE Chairman-in-Office discussed the issue of Georgia during his visit in Russia, the U.S. Secretary of State also mentioned Georgia in his conversation with Lavrov. I’d also like to recall up to 70 international resolutions and reports recently adopted, including on the human rights situation in the occupied territories, and most importantly, the Strasbourg Court’s judgment holding Russia responsible for the occupation of the Georgian territories and exercising effective control there, on the one hand, and on the other, for grave human rights violations taking place on the ground, which means Russia’s responsibility for ethnic cleansing” – Darsalia said.
Press and Information Department MFA
Strasbourg, 04.02.2021 - The German Federal Government’s Special Representative for the German Presidency of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, State Minister Michael Roth, the President of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, Rik Daems, and the Secretary General of the 47-nation Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, have today made the following statement concerning the sentencing of Aleksey Navalnyy:
“We deeply regret the recent decision of a Moscow court to sentence Aleksey Navalnyy to a prison term. This decision is based on a criminal conviction which the European Court of Human Rights, in its Navalnyye v. Russia judgment of 17 October 2017, found to have been arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable and, as a consequence, in violation of Articles 6 and 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Russia is a party. We call upon the Russian authorities to abide by their international obligations under the Convention.
The massive, and partly violent, arrests of protesters and journalists at the recent demonstrations all over Russia are also alarming. We refer to the statement of the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner in this regard. Freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, the right to liberty and security and the right to a fair trial are fundamental rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. These rights must be strictly respected.
We call on the Russian authorities to fully investigate all reported abusive actions against peaceful protesters and journalists, and to bring those responsible to justice, in order to live up to Russia’s obligations as a member state of the Council of Europe.”
The Directorate of Communications of the Council of Europe
The President of Turkmenistan made a video statement at the International Forum for Northern Economic CooperationFriday, 30 October 2020 19:22
On October 30, 2020, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov made a video statement at the International Forum for Northern Economic Cooperation which took place in Seoul in the format of a videoconference.
The heads of states, renown political figures, representatives of academic circles, leadership of ministries and departments of trade-economic, healthcare, education, communication and high-tech sectors, representatives of non-governmental organizations and private sectors of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, the Republic of Korea and other countries participated to the Forum in remote mode.
During his video address to the participants of the Forum, the President of Turkmenistan emphasized that considers the given event as a well-timed initiative aimed at long-term development of international economic, trade and investment cooperation in Eurasia.
The head of state shared his vision on the creation of new plans and strategies for comprehensive development on the Eurasian space and added that “in Turkmenistan we call it the revival of the Great Silk Road, thus emphasizing the historical continuity of the unique nature of relations between the nations living here and the states located alongside”. It was underlined that the given format is intended to contribute to the geo-economic processes along the routes of East-West and South-North.
During his address, the President of Turkmenistan especially underlined the importance of diversification of cooperation on the regional and worldwide scales. He told about the efficiency of Turkmen-Korean relations, gave examples of a number of joint projects in the oil and gas, as well as gas chemical industries with active participation of the Korean companies.
Amongst the main topics of discussion on the Forum were the changes originated from the coronavirus pandemic and further promotion of North economic cooperation. In this regard, it is vital to note that under the leadership of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Turkmenistan stands for the constructive international cooperation and calls for the application of scientific diplomacy tools for strengthening the collaboration in the area of healthcare and scientific research between the countries of the world.
The Republic of Turkey provided significant medical equipment and medicines to Georgia, including respirators, PCR diagnostic kits and personal protective equipment in order to support the country in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The donation of the Republic of Turkey is aimed at assisting the population of Georgia during the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular those who are affected by the Russia-Georgia conflict. This is especially important against the background, when the humanitarian situation in Georgia’s occupied territories has been further deteriorated amid the pandemic. Consequently, a large part of the humanitarian aid will be directed for addressing the needs of the people affected by the existing conflict between Russia and Georgia.
The Agreement between the Governments of Georgia and the Republic of Turkey on Donation in the Field of Healthcare was signed by the Deputy Minister of Health of Turkey Emine Alp Meşe and the Ambassador of Georgia to Turkey Giorgi Janjgava.
Twelve years have passed since Russia invaded the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. August 7 is a somber reminder of the thousands who have suffered and continue to suffer in the wake of Russia’s invasion. Today, we remember residents forced out of their homes and forced to live as internally displaced persons. We remember innocent civilians who died because the de facto authorities closed the Administrative Boundary Lines (ABL) and denied them access to emergency medical care. We remember families torn apart and robbed of their livelihoods by illegal “borderization” activities. As the whole world grapples with the effects of COVID-19, Georgia also suffers from the loss of trade between communities now cut off by arbitrary lines, further hampering economic recovery.
In the past year, we also witnessed a major Russian-led incursion, attempting to control hundreds of meters of additional Georgian territory at Chorchana-Tsnelisi. Russia continues to violate the conditions of the 2008 ceasefire agreement. Russian “border” guards detain civilians and use violence along the ABL, including recently shooting a Georgian citizen. Russian-led security forces continue to encroach deeper into Georgian territory, trying to expand the occupied territories meter by meter.
Russia’s responsibilities under the 2008 ceasefire agreement are clear: Russia must withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions and allow unfettered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. We also call again on Russia to reverse its recognition of the so-called independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It is essential for hundreds of thousands of IDPs and refugees to be able to return safely and with dignity to their homes. The United States' commitment to our friends and partners in Georgia remains steadfast. We stand with the people of Georgia and join them in calling for these communities, divided by Russian aggression, to be united once again.
US Embassy Tbilisi, Georgia
“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
Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia on the illegal installations along the occupation line of Tskhinvali regionMonday, 20 April 2020 12:51
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia strongly condemns the illegal process of erection of so-called “border” signs at the occupation line of Tskhinvali region, namely in the vicinity of the village Takhtisdziri of Kareli Municipality. The installation of artificial barriers by the occupation forces already entailed the loss of access to the agricultural lands for the local inhabitants.
With this kind of provocative actions in the circumstances of the Coronavirus pandemic, and moreover, during the religious holidays before the Orthodox Easter, the Russian Federation deliberately attempts to escalate the situation and further aggravate the security environment on the ground. With these steps Russia and its occupation regime are creating unbearable circumstances for the conflict-affected local population, who have been already suffering from the grave humanitarian consequences of the Russian occupation. Several people living in Tskhinvali region have already fallen victims to the closure of so-called crossing points and restriction of the freedom of movement by the occupation regime, as they were not given the possibility to cross the occupation line and get the necessary medical treatment on the Georgian Government controlled territory.
This kind of destructive steps are especially concerning in the times when the whole world is trying to fight the spread of the infection caused by the Coronavirus. In these critical circumstances, we attach particular importance to show the care and commitment to the conflict-affected population, who have long been suffering from the intensified pressure and discrimination.
The Government of Georgia spears no effort with the aim to improve the security and human rights situation on the ground. We remain in close coordination with the Co-Chairs of the Geneva International Discussions and the EU Monitoring Mission in order to ensure cessation of the illegal process of erecting the artificial barriers along the occupation line, and achieve freedom of movement for the people living in the occupation territories.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia calls upon the Russian Federation to immediately cease the provocative and destructive actions and implement its international obligations, inter alia the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia appeals to the international community to give a due assessment and take effective measures to counter the illegal process along the occupation line.
The Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia on the so-called parliamentary elections in occupied Tskhinvali region/South OssetiaTuesday, 11 June 2019 10:17
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia refers to the ongoing so-called parliamentary elections in occupied Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, which blatantly violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. Any so-called elections held in the occupied territories are illegal and cannot have any legal effect, as they are in contradiction with the fundamental norms and principles of international law.
The above so-called elections represent yet another futile attempt by Russia and its occupation regime in Tskhinvali to legitimize the ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, the illegal occupation and forceful change of sovereign borders of Georgia. The so-called parliamentary elections are taking place in the context, when internally displaced persons and refuges, forcibly expelled from the occupied territories, continue to be deprived of the possibility to return to their homes, and while the people on the ground are forced to live under violations of basic human rights and freedoms. At the same time, the Russian Federation continues its military build-up, control and de-facto annexation of the occupied territories, in full disregard of the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia appeals to the international community to give a due assessment to the ongoing so-called parliamentary elections in the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, and calls upon the Russian Federation to fulfill undertaken international obligations and withdraw its military forces from Georgia’s territory.
PACE has called on Russia to “appoint a delegation to the Assembly and to resume obligatory payment of its contribution to the Organisation’s budget” since failure to do could lead to its suspension in both statutory bodies, if applied by the Committee of Ministers.
PACE adopted the regarding resolution on April 10.
As concerns the Russian Federation, PACE called for intensified dialogue to “avoid a situation in which the biggest member State would be asked to, or chooses to leave the Organisation”, with all the geopolitical implications this would have and consequences for Russian citizens.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe deprived Russia of voting right in 2014 for illegal annexation of Crimea. Moscow has no right to work at the Assembly’s managing body and to send observers on behalf of the Assembly. In June 2017, the Russian Government’s decision, in reaction to this situation, to suspend payment of its contribution to the budget of the Organisation. Russia’s annual contribution is € 33 million, which is 10% of the total budget of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.
The Prime Minister of Georgia, Mamuka Bakhtadze, addressing the Assembly in Strasbourg said that, as a sign of gratitude, the Georgian government decided to make voluntary contributions to the Treasury of the Council of Europe.