Successful performance of the Georgian Government is the most effective way to counter Russian propaganda – David Zalkaliani

Published in Politics
Monday, 10 September 2018 13:47

According to Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani, Russian propaganda is the challenge facing not only Georgia but also western states and the most effective way to counteract it is by means of concrete actions and to tangible results.
“We are faced with hybrid threats everywhere. It is a serious challenge not only for Georgia but also for Europe and other countries. However, counterpropaganda should not be a way to contradict propaganda because we believe that one of the most effective ways to fight against propaganda is by achieving concrete results on the European and Euro-Atlantic path. And indeed, Georgia has achieved tangible results in this regard” – David Zalkaliani told journalists following the government session.
According to David Zalkaliani, the Government of Georgia will closely co-operate with European and American partners in order to benefit from their experience and best practices.

Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia

Published in military
Tuesday, 07 August 2018 12:10

7 August 2018 marks the 10th year since Russia’s large-scale military invasion in Georgia and the following illegal occupation of Georgia’s indivisible regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. 
 
Through its military aggression against the sovereign state and further illegal steps, Russia blatantly violated the fundamental norms and principles of international law and created a dangerous precedence of attacking the rules-based international order. Russia’s actions in 2008 served the ambition to redraw the borders in Europe by force and undermine the entire European security architecture. 
 
A decade later Russia still continues the aggression against Georgia. The 1-15 August large-scale military drills in the occupied territories with involvement of thousands of Russian troops and hundreds of military equipment, represent an unprecedented attempt by Russia to demonstrate its military power, that at the same time qualifies as a use of force and threat by use of force against Georgia.
 
10 years since the Russia-Georgia war the Russian Federation has not implemented the EU mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement and continues violating its international obligations, despite constant calls from the international community. In full disregard for the Ceasefire Agreement that obliged Russia to withdraw its forces from the territory of Georgia, Moscow has further reinforced its illegal military presence on the ground and continues to hinder the establishment of international security arrangements in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions of Georgia.
 
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia expresses its great concern that the security and human rights situation in the occupied territories has been further deteriorated. Continuous fortification of the occupation line through installation of barbed wire fences and other artificial barriers as well as constant kidnappings and illegal detentions by Russian FSB personnel further destabilize the security environment on the ground. As a result of this illegal process many families were left divided, many lost access to their agricultural lands, religious site and cemeteries. The grave human rights infringements in both in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions include but are not limited to gross violations of rights to freedom of movement, residence and property, as well as prohibition of education in native Georgian language, that have made lives of the local population unbearable. 
 
While hundreds of thousands of IDPs and refugees, expelled from their homes as a result of several waves of ethnic cleansing, are still deprived of right to the safe and dignified return, those Georgians who remained in the occupied territories continue to be a subject of intensified ethnic discrimination. The recent cases of illegal deprivation of life of three Georgian IDPs – Davit Basharuli, Giga Otkhozoria, and Archil Tatunashvili vividly demonstrate the impunity and ethnically driven violence in both occupied territories.
 
In response to the constant provocative steps, Georgia stays committed to its peaceful conflict resolution agenda. Georgia has spared no effort to fully utilize the peace negotiations in the frames of the Geneva International Discussions as well as Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms to dully address security and humanitarian problems of conflict-affected population stemming from the unresolved conflict between Georgia and Russia. Remaining in full compliance with the EU mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, Georgia has many times unilaterally reaffirmed and implemented the non-use of force commitment, still awaiting the reciprocity from Russian side.
 
At the same time, Georgia has intensified the efforts towards engagement and reconciliation between the communities divided by war and occupation lines. For that purpose the Government of Georgia has introduced the new peace initiative “A Step to a Better Future” directed to improve humanitarian and socio-economic conditions of people in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions and foster people-to-people contacts and confidence building between the divided societies.  
 
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia highly values the unwavering support of the international society to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, as well as the peaceful conflict resolution process. The Georgian side appeals to the calls upon the international community to further consolidate the efforts in responding the consequences of the August 2008 war and the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Georgia in compliance with the international law.
 
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia once again calls on the Russian Federation to cease its illegal actions on the territory of Georgia and comply with its international obligations, in particular to reverse the decision on recognition of so-called independence of Georgia’s occupied regions and fully implement the EU mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement.
 
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia would like to use this opportunity and express its deepest sympathy to the families and relatives of the soldiers and civil population who fell victim to the August 2008 war.

Poisonous Link - Why Russia’s Crimea Bridge Is Dangerous for Ukraine and the Black Sea Region

Published in World
Monday, 25 June 2018 02:36

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.

Vitalii Rybak is an analyst at Internews Ukraine and at UkraineWorld, an information and networking initiative.

This article has been first published on ukraineworld.org

http://ukraineworld.org/2018/04/poisonous-link-why-russias-crimea-bridge-is-dangerous-for-ukraine-and-the-black-sea-region/

 

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US Congress initiates resolution for 100th anniversary of the 1st Republic of Georgia

Published in World
Tuesday, 29 May 2018 11:36

The resolution, which was submitted to the Senate on May 24, reiterates the US support to Georgia and condemns the occupation of historic Georgian lands by Russia.

The authors of the resolution are Senators David Perdue, Ben Cardin and Johnny Isakson.

The resolution supports the partnership between Georgia and the US for defence and security and initiates even higher level of cooperation in the fields. The resolution also encourages more intensive trade and commercial ties between the two countries, based on mutual interests.

The resolution reaffirms US strong support to Georgia’s NATO membership and praises Georgia’s role for international peace and security". 

The  resolution condemns the occupation of Georgian territories by Russia and calls upon the country to withdraw its forces from the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia).

The resolution speaks about the severe violation of human rights in and near the occupied territories of Georgia.

Comment of the Press and Information Department regarding the so-called visit of the occupation regime’s representatives to Syria

Published in Politics
Friday, 25 August 2017 12:06

he so-called visit of the occupation regime’s representatives to Syria – a war-torn country where Russia tries to reinforce its influence at all costs - represents a follow-up to Russia’s and its occupation regimes’ provocative policy with respect to Georgia. 
 
By resorting to such actions, Russia makes futile efforts to legitimize the occupation regimes and the violent redrawing of the borders of the sovereign state.

Diplomatic representatives of Syria, as well as international partners have been contacted and duly informed about the matter.

Due to our government’s intensive work with the international community, the territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders has not been called into question.

We call on all sovereign states to respect the territorial integrity of Georgia and its sovereign rights and to avoid any involvement in planned provocative activities.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns the signing of so-called agreement

Published in Politics
Friday, 19 May 2017 11:15

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia condemns the signing of so-called agreement between the Russian Federation and its occupation regime in Sokhumi on “the rules of establishment and functioning of the joint information-coordination center of agencies for internal affairs” that took place on 18 May 2017.
Creation by the Russian Federation of so-called joint group of armed forces in Abkhazia region, now followed by the merger of law enforcement and investigative bodies, which were envisaged by 2014 so-called treaty on alliance and strategic partnership, represent a clear proof of factual annexation process of the occupied region.  
The so-called agreement totally disregards fundamental principles and norms of international law such as sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of internationally recognised borders. This is an intentional step taken by the Russian Federation to undermine peace policy of the Georgian Government, supported by international community. Such kind of actions contribute to destabilization of the situation in the region and harm the Geneva International Discussions. 
Ongoing illegal processes in the occupied territories of Georgia vividly demonstrate the need for firm and consolidated international efforts. We appeal to the international community to take effective measures aimed at de-occupation and prevention of annexation of Georgia’s occupied regions.

Former FBI boss to lead Russia inquiry

Published in World
Thursday, 18 May 2017 11:30

A former FBI boss has been named special counsel to oversee an inquiry into Russia's alleged meddling in the election and any Trump campaign ties. In naming Robert Mueller, the deputy attorney general said it was in the public interest to have an outsider. The appointment has been widely praised by politicians from both sides.
Calls for a special prosecutor had mounted since President Donald Trump fired the most recent FBI director, James Comey, last week. The FBI and Congress are looking into potential links between Mr Trump's campaign team and Russia. US intelligence agencies believe Moscow tried to tip the election in favour of the Republican.
source:BBC.com

St Petersburg metro explosions kill ten

Published in World
Monday, 03 April 2017 17:05

At least 10 people have been killed in explosions at underground stations in St Petersburg, Russian media report. News agencies reported the blasts hit the Sennaya Ploschad and nearby Tekhnologichesky Institut stations in the centre of the city.
Images posted on social media showed a badly-mangled carriage in Sennaya station, with casualties nearby. President Vladimir Putin said all causes, including terrorism, were being investigated.
source: BBC.com

Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia regarding the third anniversary of annexation of Crimea

Published in Politics
Monday, 20 March 2017 12:55
The so-called referendum conducted in Crimea three years ago under the pressure of Russian armed forces led to the illegal occupation and annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation. These acts were committed in complete disregard for the Constitution and legislation of Ukraine, as well as for the fundamental norms and principles of international law. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns again the aggression committed against Ukraine and the attempts to forcefully change the borders – an experience our country has already come through. This practice of occupation and annexation undermines the established international order posing a serious threat to international security and stability. Today as never before, the firm and consolidated position by the international community is of utmost importance in order to resist the ongoing aggression against sovereign states and to ensure peace and stability through establishment of meaningful international security mechanisms on the ground. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia reaffirms its firm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.

The President of Georgia: Russia Is Trying to Create a Mockery of International Relations by Creating a Precedent of Cooperation with the Occupied Territories

Published in Politics
Friday, 17 March 2017 15:10
The President of Georgia, H.E. Giorgi Margvelashvili has addressed former and current leaders of more than 50 countries at the 5th Baku Global Forum: “It is an honor and pleasure to be here at this great gathering, to have an opportunity to address this distinguished audience and to meet with lots of our friends. Let me thank the organizers of this meeting for this opportunity. I have been hearing numerous, very interesting presentations and ideas and we share basically the same concern. We share concerns about security, stability, and efficiency of international institutions that are put in place for the reason to prevent tensions and conflicts. In a way, we go around 30 years back and reflect what we were thinking about the future of the world when the Cold War was finishing. We thought our prospects were much more optimistic. We were thinking that the end of the Cold War would bring more peace and prosperity and globalization of the world would bring more contacts and opportunities for trade, friendship and dialogue of cultures, but our very optimistic hopes have been only partially fulfilled and we are seeing the world where we see terrorism, suffering of people, mass destructions, wars and we are thinking how to make the process more stable and peaceful. My country has been an actor and a factor in global security and stability, participating practically in majority of international missions that have been undertaken for the last 25 years, since Georgia became independent. We believe in international cooperation among the nations to solicit stability not only of your own country, but the global stability which, in this globalized world, is reflected on the stability of your homeland. Right now we are active in international missions in Afghanistan and Africa and we believe that contributing to this process makes Georgia more stable, but at the same time Georgia is an unfortunate example of hypocrisy of international relationships that is built around the concept of privileged interest areas. Georgia has been occupied by its neighboring, very strong nuclear country, Russia. Georgia was occupied in 2008 by the regular Russian army, but Georgia has been occupied before with something that we are calling hybrid war, in the beginning of 1990’s, when we stated our independence. This is a fact that a country, contributing to global security and stability is suffering when it comes to its neighbor. This is a fact that we all have to face and we have to acknowledge that facing this fact should bring us to clearer solutions and visions. Russia has declared its foreign policy, basically stating that international relations, international global order is somehow twisted when it comes to Russian neighborhood. And as a result of this twist, as a result of the belief that Russia has a right to police its neighbors, parts of my country are occupied. But one thing is what Russia has declared and the other thing is how clear, how blunt were the nations that believed in global security and international relationships in disapproving Russian policy. I do not think that we all were exactly blunt at that point when in 2008 Georgia was occupied and we got crisis in Crimea in six years in Ukraine. So, facing the challenges of terrorism, facing the challenges of hybrid war, facing the challenges of big powers, disregarding rules of the game, we should be very clear that in this globalized world wherever it is happening, it is a threat to security and stability for each and every country around the world which plans to build a more secure future. In this respect, I think we have to be very blunt and not hypocritical in condemning any type of aggression, being it from a strong neighbor, or relatively strong neighbor, or maybe just a strong party towards its neighbors and allies. Yesterday, with the decision of the Russian government, the so-called army of the occupied Tskhinvali region has been implanted and gone under the Russian military control. This is the issue that shows that Russians are trying to create a mockery of international relations by creating a precedent of cooperation between the occupied territories and their nation. So, I believe that future stability is in very sincere reactions to cases like this, in being very critical, precise, blunt, and believing that if we want to keep the future of our world stable and secure, we have to be devoted to the concept of international relationships and international law, which should be the basis of cooperation. That is what Georgia is doing in our region. We are open and embracing partners of Azerbaijan, Turkey, and other countries in the region, opening up Georgia’s opportunities of cooperation and future prosperity projects”, - stated the President.
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