Page 1

Issue no: 1039

• APRIL 13 - 16, 2018



In this week’s issue... Tatunashvili's Family Demands Results of Autopsy NEWS PAGE 2

The Bucharest Summit Revisited POLITICS PAGE 5

Anaklia City Makes Productive Visit to the United Arab Emirates



An analysis of the growing tensions surrounding the Syria conflict


Image source: AFP

Georgia Plans Large-Scale Celebrations to Mark 100th Anniversary of Democratic Republic BY THEA MORRISON


n connection with the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the First Democratic Republic of Georgia, around 100 events will be held both inside and outside the country. The DRG was created after the collapse of the Russian Empire, which began with the Russian Revolution of 1917. However, after four years it collapsed and in 1921 became a Soviet Republic. Continued on page 2

Photo: Georgia’s Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze

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Georgia Expects Group of Investors from UAE BUSINESS PAGE 13

Keeping a Perspective on Racism SOCIETY PAGE 16




APRIL 13 - 16, 2018

Tatunashvili's Family Demands Results of Autopsy BY THEA MORRISON


he family of Georgian citizen Archil Tatunashvili, who died in custody in a detention facility in Georgia’s occupied Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia) on February 23, is demanding to see the autopsy results. The puppet regime at first refused to hand Tatunashvili’s body over to Georgia-proper authorities following his death in custody in unclear circumstances. However, late on March 20, his body was transferred to the Georgia-proper side of the boundary line and on March 24, he was buried with military honor at Mukhatgverdi military cemetery on the outskirts of Tbilisi. Official Tbilisi has not yet stated officially that Tatunashvili was killed. However, the President of Georgia and the majority of opposition MPs and human right activists have openly accused de facto Tskhinvali of murdering Tatunashvili, as the 35-year old had multiple injuries and bruises on

his body, including an amputated index finger on his right hand. Tamar Avaliani, lawyer of the deceased man’s family, says that three weeks have passed since the autopsy was carried out, adding they are waiting for the “adequate” result. “The forensic medical expertise results should have been out within two weeks. Three weeks have passed and we have yet to receive a response. According to preliminary data and visual examination, Tatunashvili had multiple injuries which indicate that he was tortured,” the lawyer stressed. Avaliani also underlined that the entire case is based on the autopsy result, adding the family expects the investigation “will be fair, comprehensive and effective.” “The family of Tatunashvili has no information regarding the investigation. They are demanding and waiting for the identification and punishment of the perpetrators,” she added. According to the lawyer, if the investigation of the case proves ineffective in Georgia, the family will address the

Photo: Tatunashvili’s house in village Tsilkani. Source: 1TV

European Human Rights Court (ECHR) in Strasburg. The Levan Samkharauli National Forensics Bureau says they have no results yet, adding the examination is still underway. “The expertise has reasonable terms and it will continue until the completion of the study," stated Eka Chumburidze, Head of Public Relations Department of the National Forensics Bureau.

Psycho-Rehabilitation Center Empathy, which was involved in the examination of Archil Tutunashvili's body, said that they have not received material to prepare a conclusion. Mariam Jishkariani, Director of the Center and an international expert, stated they are waiting for the results of National Forensics Bureau. On March 20-21, the Forensic Medical Expertise Department of the Samkha-

rauli National Forensics Bureau conducted a medical examination of Tatunashvili’s body. The experts of the Bureau believe it necessary to conduct an examination according to international standards. Georgia’s Minister of Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, does not exclude that international experts will be involved in the process. “The need for the involvement of foreign experts in Tatunashvili's case will be known after the final results of the examination…Our task is to determine all circumstances in which the young man's life was ended. Naturally, this process will have continuation, both political and legal,” said Tsikhelashvili. De facto Tskhivali rejects all allegations, adding Tatunashvili was “suspected of sabotage and murder of civilians” during the Georgia-Russia August war in 2008. They say their "law enforcers" used physical force against Tatunashvili when he attempted to escape, adding he fell down the stairs and died two hours later in hospital.

Georgia Plans Large-Scale Celebrations to Mark 100th Anniversary of Democratic Republic Continued from page 1

The Vice-Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Mikheil Janelidze stated that on Georgia’s Independence Day, May 26, special events will take place in Akhaltsikhe, in the south-west of Georgia, on the territory of Rabati Castle. Furthermore, according to Janelidze, public lectures, photo exhibitions, and open-door days in the capital Tbilisi will soon be launched to raise the popula-

tion’s awareness about the importance of May 26. On 26 May, the descendants of the Georgian historian diaspora living abroad will attend the events of the Independence Day in Tbilisi, and have meetings with representatives of the Georgian government, scientific and cultural circles. Janelidze noted that Diaspora Days will be celebrated in Tbilisi between May 27-28, with 300 representatives of differ-

ent countries visiting Georgia to participate in the event. “The Ministry intends to create a diplomatic museum, and on May 26, it will present to the public numerous interesting exhibits about the history of Georgian diplomacy,” he added. In connection to this important date for Georgia, the Government of Lithuania will open Tbilisi Street in Vilnius on May 26. Furthermore, 26 sights in various foreign

countries will light up in the colors of Georgia’s national flag - white and red. Janelidze added that UNESCO will host a joint concert of famous Georgian artist and UNESCO Peace Ambassador Eliso Bolkvadze and Georgian folk Ensemble Basiani. A special event will be held in the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York, featuring the presentation of a special stamp dedicated to the 850th anniversary of iconic Georgian poet

Shota Rustaveli. According to the Minister, the remarkable date in Georgian history will also be celebrated in the Council of Europe (CoE) headquarters. Celebrations will also be held at the Leuville Georgian estate, a historical Chateau Estate around 27 kilometers from Paris, where the first Government of Georgia settled in exile after fleeing their home in 1921, when the Russian Red Army entered Georgia.

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APRIL 13 - 16, 2018

An Explosive Mix – Analysis of the Western-Eastern Power Gamble in Syria

Photo: Saudi Crown Prince MBS and French President Macron



t may not be something that strikes the eye, as we are used to hearing atrocious news from Syria. But the recent verbal, and partially already physical hostilities between Russia, US, Israel and Iran, in conjunction with the involvement of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, France and the United Kingdom, are all taking place in an Arab nation whose statements haven’t been echoed through global news outlets the recent days at all. The rather small country in the Levant developed from an internal revolution of sectarian groups, whose different military advances and losses have dominated media coverage initially, in a global playground of virility. The last few days have been messy, as the involved presidents and prime ministers follow their own personal desires, disregarding any responsibility they might have towards the international community. Syria has been turned into an “after-work bar,” where things outside the legal norm are allowed and confrontations are sought without thought of the consequences. The danger, besides the pointless rowdiness on the backs of Syrian lives, is the very likely escalation of the conflict to areas outside of Syria. As so often happens in bar fights, the exact starting point seems almost forgotten as the conflict goes on. And if remembered, no one really knows who started it or if everything they said was really meant in the way it was taken. What exactly are the interests turning the conflict into such a chaotic mess? Starting with the place of the theater, Assad has clearly vowed to take the country back under his control, being on the verge of defeating the opposition forces which are pent-up in remaining areas in the north and the south of the country. Their infrastructure is cut and only supplies from allies keep them alive. Backed by Iran and Russia, Assad’s main purpose may be the clearest one: to take full control of the pre-civil war Syrian territory. However, having destroyed ISIS, the Kurdish forces in the northeast, and the Turkish forces along the border, still have a powerful position to defend themselves. Surviving this civil war with just Russian and Iranian support, an Assad-controlled Syria will basically become a Russian/ Iranian foreign policy outpost with militia and spies; a situation undesired by all neighboring states. These developments forced Israel to actively enter the conflict to demonstrate their unwillingness to accept such an outcome. Their basic rule of nonengagement is only maintained when ensured that Iranian forces won’t get a hold in Syria. However, as Assad is winning with Iranian help, Israel is deter-

mined to eliminate the Iranian military presence in the area. A simple calculation which could turn the tables upside-down again in the war: “We don’t care how the Syrian civil war ends, but the current outcome is unacceptable.” Surrounded by Hezbollah in the north, Iranian-backed and heavily armed, Israel fears additional Iranian-backed militia along the Syrian border after the war is over. In addition, Hezbollah gained much more autonomy over the recent years from Tehran, which makes them an almost better enemy than Iranian forces in Syria, which are directly commanded by the Islamic regime at the Persian Gulf. These forces are a red line for Israel, as Netanyahu and his Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, have reiterated in various statements. The absence of Western allies in toppling Assad forced Israel to enter the conflict by targeting an Iranian military presence three days ago, peppering up this conglomeration of different interests. The Israelis have also found their perfect prime minister for such a standoff, as Netanyahu throws threats at Iran on a repeated basis, stating Wednesday that Iran shouldn’t “test Israel’s resolve.” In addition, the situation gives Netanyahu a perfect distraction from internal political turmoil- police questioned him last month on various corruption cases. As if this is not enough, the Israelis are able to distract from the Gaza riots taking place in parallel, which have been causing international outcry, now occupying the international community with avoiding a destabilization of the Syrian civil war. Iran is perfectly following up on Israel’s fears. The Ayatollah regime finally sees itself able to gain a direct foothold in the Mediterranean Sea. Through a Shia government in Iraq and Hezbollah in the south of Lebanon, Syria enables a direct land link all the way to European waters. Iran, which is in constant battle with Saudi Arabia to establish Middle Eastern hegemony, could pocket a fundamental victory painful for the Al Saud royal house. Iran is meddling in numerous states in the region, from obvious options such as Bahrain to less obvious ones as Georgia, where Iranian websites pop-up speaking directly to the Azerbaijani minorities in the south of the country. Iran knows, however, that a direct military confrontation with Israel or Saudi Arabia will create further turmoil in the region, something which is not in their interest as it would mean less actual control of the Middle East. In addition, Hezbollah repeatedly stated their intention to maintain peace in Lebanon, thus questioning their support for Israel if Lebanon is not directly involved in the conflict. So far, Iran’s most obvious military efforts are limited to proxy wars in Yemen and Syria. The Saudis are quite calm these days. Their crown prince and actual political thread-puller Mohammad Bin Salman, or MBS, has been hiding behind the

French in Paris while proclaiming his support for a military operation in Syria. The Saudi position has weakened over the last months. After the confusion over the resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister, which was allegedly instigated by the Saudis yet withdrawn days later as Lebanese politicians kept a cool head, refusing to let foreign politics interfere their political debate, the Saudis are being careful when spearheading new military efforts. Their decision to remain outside the spotlight is spurred by the endless proxy war in Yemen as well as France’s new efforts to involve themselves in Middle Eastern politics. Hiding behind Western military efforts may also give the Saudis the confidence to win a potential confrontation, while being unaccountable if the Syrian civilwar should turn out against their wishes. One of the most underestimated actors in this new rise of tensions may be France and its prepotent President, Emmanuel Macron. Having grabbed the opportunity to resolve the Lebanese prime minister standoff, Macron generated new momentum for French Middle Eastern policies. His subtle and soft power decisions to finance museums in the Gulf or help political standoffs have made Macron one of the first point of contacts for Arab leaders in search for Western allies, especially with Downing Street and the White House being run by a powerless and an incalculable leader, respectively. Just days before the recent surge in verbal attacks, Paris was center to an economic summit to finance Lebanese development projects. Macron succeeded in arranging billions of additional funds for the small Mediterranean country through the coming years. Recent comments made by the French President also show a great determination to enter the Syrian civil war. Calls between the White House and France have taken place, assuring mutual support. It remains to be seen if Macron’s efforts, covered under a humanitarian blanket, will complicate the conflict or generate solutions, as his team has done in Lebanon. I tend to speculate the former. There is still one actor totally disregarded by the wider public, which is the United Kingdom. Theresa May reminds one of a school child trying to be one of the cool kids in fear of missing out. The Skripal case is still not forgotten and the British public longs for national pride, creating the perfect excuse for May to engage in the conflict. Following on the heels of Macron and Trump, May met with top national security advisors to work out plans for different military options. According to recent news reports, U-boats and “Tomahawk” missiles are already positioned in the Mediterranean Sea, ready for a potential mission. This conflict allows May to strengthen her position again, which has been a reoccurring solution for British prime ministers trapped in internal politics. Like Netanyahu, an

10 Galaktion Street

Photo: Syrian President Assad and Russian President Putin

intervention in Syria would force British media to focus on foreign policy rather than internal power gambles. Another actor on the sidelines these days is Turkey. Having intervened in the north of Syria to contain Kurdish forces, the main thorn in Erdogan’s side is Assad and the Kurds fighting for an independent state. Over recent years, Turkey has developed its own national strategy for the Syrian conflict. Initially profiting from ISIS oil exports, Turkey distanced itself from NATO and the West and met with Russia and Iran to discuss Syria on multiple occasions. Yet he dislikes Assad and hopes to oust him. More important for Turkey is the fight against the Kurds rather than engaging in the power gamble. Additionally, the AKP follow a strategy of national pride, not wanting to side with either the West or the East, entering the game with their own national strategy of creating a stronger hegemony in the Middle East. If escalations continue, Turkey is expected to operate behind the lines to increase its influence. Which brings us to the main actors, the US and Russia. The US is considered an incalculable nation under Trump, but looking closer, the “deep state” still controls his actions quite heavily. Trump and his twitter account are quick in condemning military actions in Syria and are also quick in threatening the other parties involved, but his desire to not intervene with ground forces has been made clear. The power game he is playing could be understood as a repetition of the game he played with Kim Jong-Un at the beginning of the North Korea crisis last year. After a spike in tensions, relations normalized and a meeting between the two leaders is in sight. The alleged chemical attack forced Trump to be interested in a conflict which he rather desires to forget on his daily agenda. The worrying thing about his recent comments is the sup-

port coming from Macron and May, which usually follow up on their promises. America is worried to lose the hegemony in the Middle East, which has been fading since the Iraq war. Afghanistan is a disaster and an American intervention is unlikely to solve the problems in Syria either. One aspect which shouldn’t be forgotten is the Jewish lobby in Washington. If Israel is adamant about their threats and determined to oust Iranian forces from Syria, the White House may feel forced to act in a stronger manner. As of going to press, Putin is playing the smart diplomat, demanding proof of the chemical attack and denouncing Trump’s “Twitter Diplomacy,” calling on Netanyahu to stay out of Syria to avoid further destabilization. Their chemical attack may have been an attempt by the Russians and Assad to test the waters and to see the likelihood of the West responding, but Putin also knows that the interest in Syria before the alleged attack was minuscular, paving his way to victory with Assad. Right now, he is keeping his eyes open but, as always, his options are the most dubious. He may just wait until the West calms down enough to turn their back on Syria again. And so the bar fight enters a new stage, with it being unknown if the different actors will go out onto the street in their squabble, bringing passersby into the fray…or whether they’ll keep to their little fights inside the walls of Syria. The police forces patrolling the bar, called the UN, seem to be on vacation or have perhaps simply realized that their baton is not strong enough. Opposite the Syrian bar, China and others are seated observing the fight whilst calmly negotiating a new way of influence with other uninvolved states. Keep updated with the latest news on georgiatoday.ge.

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eorgia has been waiting 10 years for NATO to come good on its promise, given at the 2008 Bucharest Summit, that Georgia (and Ukraine) would one day become members of the Alliance. Not that having a war in 2008 (ditto for Ukraine) helped matters, but still. How big was the Bucharest Summit for Georgia? A major milestone that had a geopolitical impact or simply a foreshadowing for what was to come? What is its importance and legacy now, ten years later? We asked Dr. Nicu Popescu, Senior Analyst at the EU Institute for Security Studies and author of a multitude of books and articles on the Post-Soviet sphere, to explain it all in an exclusive interview for our “Messages from Brussels” series.

10 YEARS ON AND LOOKING BACK, WHAT WERE THE MAIN IMPLICATIONS OF THE BUCHAREST SUMMIT? It has been a heavy decade for Georgia as well as for European security. You can’t delink the NATO Bucharest Summit with the war in Georgia. Looking from 2018, the two events come together, signaling not only a complete breakdown

of relations between the EU, NATO and Russia but a kind of militarization of Russian foreign policy where Russia started pursuing its foreign policy goals through military means. It was grossly underestimated in 2008, but of course this came back into the center of the foreign policy agenda in Europe with the wars in Ukraine and Syria as well as with the propaganda cyber war that so defines the foreign policy debate in the USA and Europe today.

THAT FAMOUS PROMISE GIVEN TO GEORGIANS AND UKRAINIANS THAT THEY WOULD JOIN NATO; HOW MUCH OF A GAME CHANGER WAS IT? It definitely fed the already-existing Russian paranoia about NATO. The growing concerns and fears that at some point NATO could enlarge to Georgia and Ukraine were there even before this promise was given; but then this promise exacerbated those fears.


DOING SO IT “DROVE PUTIN INTO A CORNER.” WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF IT? It’s a pretty widespread view in Europe and the US that Russia was defensive around Ukraine and Georgia. But you know Russia had red lines for the West to cross. A lot of people say that, including Kissinger and other British, American, French and German politicians and former senior diplomats. What you just quoted from Scheffer is nothing new- we hear it often. There’s no such thing as a Russian red line that is stable: it shifts. For a long time, Russia was saying it was against NATO enlargement but that it didn’t mind EU enlargement. Then in June-July 2014, they suddenly started being not just against EU enlargement but even against the free trade area between Ukraine and the EU. The second fact showing that Russia is not purely defensive and that it’s not just defending its geopolitical interests in its immediate neighborhood, is Russia’s reaction to western interventionism, mostly about Syria; what Russia did with Ukraine, Georgia, Syria, is just Russia reacting to western intervention; the bombing of Serbia in 1999, the western intervention in Iraq. Russia says it’s against western intervention; but the last western military intervention was Libya in 2011. In the last 10 years, despite the West becoming less interventionist, Russia is ever more dissatisfied.

HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK THE PROMISE OF NATO MEMBERSHIP PRECIPITATED THE 2008 WAR IN GEORGIA? It probably accelerated the risks of war. Probably more the fact that at the NATO Bucharest Summit, Georgia and Ukraine came very close to a MAP [Membership Action Plan] and there was that the communiqué saying that we will reconvene in December. So Russia thought at that time that ok, they came very close to the membership action plan and we have till December to derail it. I was in Georgia a few days after the NATO summit, in early April. I travelled to Tskhinvali, to Tamarasheni, in Kurta, and to the Georgian controlled territory. I met the de facto South Ossetia foreign minister and the head of the Georgian administration, Sanakoev. When I came to Georgia again in July I had a pretty good sense of what was happening. I remember around April 2008, people were saying that Russia was moving its railway troops into Abkhazia to rebuild the railways there, making it much quicker for Russian troops to move into the region, potentially towards Georgia, if need be. Some in Georgia at this time were saying urgent action was needed, perhaps a preemptive attack on Abkhazia or South Ossetia; some were suggesting partitioning Abkhazia. That June, Saakashvili went to Sochi to meet Medvedev to discuss the potential partition-

ing of Abkhazia. So, in Georgia, this idea that it had been promised NATO accession and in December 2008 there would be a new conversation around MAP, created a sense of urgency to do something about the conflict zone. There was a kind of boiling tension on both sides.

DO YOU THINK THE WEST MISCALCULATED IN GIVING THE NATO PROMISE? It’s only natural for Georgia to want to be protected by NATO. But at that time in 2008, my reservations regarding the extension of a MAP to Georgia and Ukraine was more based on domestic political grounds. If you want a state inside NATO, you want to make sure there’s a political consensus behind the move, and that five years from now you won’t get a surprise government. That was the case for Ukraine: imagine if Ukraine got MAP, got accepted in NATO and then had a president like Yanoukovich. If Georgia and Ukraine had got MAP in 2008, it would have been massively discredited by the election of Yanoukovich in 2010. That would have kept Ukraine out of the process. It wouldn’t have suspended Georgia from MAP, but it would still have politically discredited the process. Georgia at that time didn’t yet have a systematic election-based changing of government. Continued on page 6




APRIL 13 - 16, 2018

The Bucharest Summit Revisited


Continued from page 5

By 2008, the only power change witnessed in Georgia was a move from Gamsakhurdia to Shevardnadze to Saakashvili through revolution or civil war. This hinted at a potential stability problem for the future. Were the people sure that Georgia could change government through elections and would the future government be as committed to NATO as Saakashvili was? Georgia also had the problem of the conflicts, and this is not the case in Montenegro, for example. Georgia was also linked to Ukraine. Georgia is and was performing much better than Ukraine, but it was still part of the same kind of policy package for better or worse; probably it did a disservice to Georgia, but that was the reality. Then you had the Russia factor. There were a number of arguments that made and still make Georgia a more complicated case than the Balkans.

WE STILL SEE GERMANY AND FRANCE AS EXAMPLE SKEPTICAL COUNTRIES TO GEORGIA’S GETTING MAP. WHAT DO YOU THINK GEORGIA CAN DO TO WIN THEM OVER? Unfortunately, in purely diplomatic terms, there’s almost nothing to be done about persuading most NATO member states in this regard, mostly due to the general sense of geopolitics, due to wars, because of the adamant Russian opposition. The best thing Georgia could do is be ready to use the window of opportunity when it opens. We don’t know when this will happen, it depends on the major changes in Russian-western relations. We saw the Baltic states using the 1990s well to fast forward, and we saw Georgia, Moldova, the Balkans, Ukraine missing the 90s “window” as they were engaged in civil wars. Georgia needs to be ever-ready, with a functioning state, defense sector, and political system.

DOES THIS FORMULA STILL APPLY IF WE ARE TIED TO UKRAINE WHEN IT COMES TO OUR ASPIRATIONS ON EURO-ATLANTIC INTEGRATION? The bigger problem for Georgia now is not so much being tied to Ukraine; it’s Turkey. Both the US and most European states are seeing a significant break-

President of Russia, Vladimir Putin and Former NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer

down of trust with Turkey. If Georgia was a NATO member, I’m not sure the West and Georgia could entirely rely on working on the same page with Turkey in military and diplomatic terms when it came to any need to defend Georgia. If there was a problem between Georgia and Russia, how could troops be sent into Georgia? Could you be 100% sure that the Georgian, American and European security calculations and security desire to defend Georgia from Russia coincide 100% with those of Turkey? That’s a big question. Putin has just been to Ankara, Putin had the summit between Iran and Turkey where they discussed the future of Syria. The West was excluded from that discussion and there are certainly big differences in what most NATO members think about Syria and what Turkey

thinks and does in Syria. If you needed to defend Georgia, you either send reinforcements by land through Turkey or by air over Turkey or through the Bosporus, which again depends on Turkey. So, even in pure military terms, this breakdown of trust between most NATO member states and Turkey because of Syria, because of the Turkey-Russia relationship, because of the Turkey-Iran relationship, complicates things even more Georgia-NATO relations.

In 2002, the EU launched the Neighborhood Policy. The South Caucasus was not included, but from day one there was the idea that you cannot stabilize the European neighborhood without doing something about the conflict zones. Around 2004, the Russians came out as categorically against the Policy, and the Europeans accepted it and dropped the conflict resolution from their top priority list; they said, “let’s try to do something around the conflict zones without really making it a big priority because we don’t want to irritate Russia.” That was their line. If you ask me, that was one of their biggest mistakes and it exploded in 2008. One of the main diplomatic things that should have been done and was not, was in 2005 when there was an OSCE border monitoring mission in Georgia- Russia vetoed it. Georgia invited the EU to deploy and take over and the EU refused and there was no consensus due to several member states being unwilling to irritate Russia. The EU sent a “border” support team of six people; so it was a small thing and they were based in Tbilisi. If there had been a major international presence on the ground, deployed in 2005, this would have significantly minimized the risk of a war in 2008 because it would have constrained the behavior of both Russia, South Ossetians and Georgians. The EU chose not to be active in the conflict, not to irritate Russia, and then sent this monitoring mission after 2008 anyway. This article was prepared in the scope of “Messages from Brussels” series, a project by European Alliance for Georgia, a Brussels-based advocacy organization dedicated to “Bringing more Georgia into Europe.”


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n the wake of April 9th, triggered by the sporadic bunches of flowers and wreaths that were laid on the tragic-day memorial in front of the Government House in Tbilisi, I started to think. No more crowds there – just the authorities and occasional political activists, turning up on regular annual basis in the newly-born mournful national tradition. I saw it all in 1989, accompanied by my American friends and colleagues, poised to make a documentary about the soviet military machine crushing peaceful demonstrators in Georgia. The film was shown in the United States shortly after the tragedy had taken place to let the wider world conceive the final wriggles of the soviet monster. It was truly hard to shoot, edit and interpret, but it was all done in adequate order and style; we were still alive, and the nation was still functioning as well as it could. The nation endured this inflicted pain and it came out of the other side. I am still around too . . . If anything kills me someday soon, it would not be potential future tragedy, old-age or a malady. The killer of this good old curmudgeon is going to be a series of meditations on the subject of the state of the nation after the demise of the Soviet Union. This ‘killer thought’ is derived from the analysis of a political paradox we have received as a consequence of the fall of the evil soviet empire. The crux of the paradox I am talking about is that in soviet times, Georgia was a wholesome land with no territorial

and border problems, although it was bent under the burden of communist ideology. Now that Georgia is an independent free nation, it is butchered into several territories – either occupied or functioning on its own – with shattered and unattended borderlines. So, what is preferable – to be part of the bad and oppressive Soviet Union, with an intact territory, or to be free and independent with a huge chunk of the once integral territory dead and gone? As tricky as this crucial historical question sounds, nobody has the answer to it. Nobody! Not one Georgian political scientist, active politician, regular civil servant or even the wisest man or woman in today’s society. This question is unanswerable; and even if it was, nobody would agree to face the risk of a ruined reputation if one ventured to respond. Of course, the ideal answer would be to have Georgia untouched, with its historical lands, that are currently within the jurisdiction of a couple of foreign countries, regained. On top of that, throw freedom and independence, and developed capitalism into the bargain, plus membership with NATO and the EU and simultaneous friendship and fruitful cooperation with Russia. Wouldn’t this be wonderful? But this is all wild daydreaming and naïve wool-gathering. In harsh reality, this nation is badly suffering from what it has lost as a result of the collapse of the USSR, as vicious and oppressive a regime it was. This is the political paradox I am talking about: the past model of existence was bad, yet Georgia was whole; the current model of existence is good but Georgia is not totally united. If the given is that we could have our territories back provided we embraced Russia rather than the West, what would an average Georgian say to this? Would an average Georgian agree to forfeit national freedom and independence for restored territories? This is where doubts start eating away at all of us, as we feel that we cannot have both national independence and territorial integrity. We cannot have both because our land coveter is too big, too powerful, too strong headed, too imperial, too voracious and too full of grudge against Georgia. And the friendly West with its endless international formats, meant to help us, is right in the middle of the boring and exhausting Sisyphean toil. Now the question is, which priority will preponderate out of those awful alternatives.




APRIL 13 - 16, 2018

Beneath All Russia’s Misfortune Lies Ukraine OP-ED BY EMIL AVDALIANI


he recent spike in the USRussia confrontation once again shows that a compromise fitting both parties’ interests will be unlikely to happen. Recent US sanctions against the Russian oligarchs, as well as Washington’s political decisions across Eurasia, once again reflect the notion that Donald Trump as a sole figure could not have changed the White House’s foreign policy as there are far too many fundamental differences between the two sides. Still, neither analysts nor politicians forget that the foundation for the Russia-West confrontation in the 21st century is Ukraine. We need to bear this in mind when Russian policy moves are considered across Eurasia and elsewhere. For Russia, Ukraine is important both economically and strategically: even without Poland or the Baltic States, Russia retains the status of a “Eurasian Empire”. Without Ukraine, Russia will increasingly become a state with more borders in Asia than in Europe. This will in turn make Russia more heavily involved in long-term Islamic conflicts along its entire southern border. Although there have already been several examples of Slavic countries (Slovenia, Poland, Czech Republic, etc.) joining the EU and NATO, Ukraine following their path will irreversibly under-

mine the notion of the so-called “Slavic Union” and would leave Russia with just its Belarus brethren. For the US/European Union (EU) keeping Ukraine is a strategic imperative as it tries to prevent the resurgent Russia from projecting its influence in its immediate neighborhood. Restoration of Russian influence over the Ukraine territory would increase Moscow’s power over the Black Sea and the South Caucasus and will threaten Eastern European security. Even in Georgia, which does not feature high in relations between Moscow and Washington, differences remain as deep as ever. The country remains prowestern and the US has been open in its support for the country’s territorial integrity. However, differences go far deeper than Tbilisi’s pro-western course: in Russia’s view, Georgia can become a military basis for NATO expansion in the region, which will fundamentally undermine Russian positions in the Caucasus overall. Russia and the US also disagree on many other fronts. Syria and North Korea are just several of them. Although, overall, it is unlikely that Washington and Moscow will militarily collide, Trump’s statements via twitter reflect how deep anti-Russian sentiments are in America. True, for Russian core interests, Syria does not represent problem number one, but Ukraine does. Syria is far, Ukraine close enough to cause Russian civilizational fears. Civilizational because for the first time

On a wall in Sevastopol, Russian President Vladimir Putin builds a new Crimea under Russian colors. Image source: euobserver. com/ Loreline Merelle

in over 400 years, Russian state building notions are surpassed by the European models. But beyond the “civilizational” also lies a more fundamental issue - economy. In previous articles for GT, I have written how the EU and US are marching to the east, far deeper and far more fundamentally (through economic cooperation and elite co-optation) rarely, if ever, seen in the past Russia-West relations. And the Russians are worried, but to their credit, Putin and others

seldom express that. We often forget that Ukraine, and less so Georgia, are the questions around which revolve all Russian foreign policy actions: attempts to bargain military gains in Syria for advantages in Ukraine. Without Ukraine, Russia will be geographically far retracted into the Eurasian continent, far from Europe, not entirely in Asia. In fact, Russia might be seeing a deep geopolitical isolation. In fact, this is what many in Russia already think. Putin’s long-time aide on

domestic policy issues, Vladislav Surkov, in a recently published piece wrote that Russia’s attempts to marry Europe ended after the Ukraine crisis. Now, Russia will be facing long-term isolation. A striking admission on a part of the member of the Russian ruling elite. Moscow needs Ukraine and the restoration of all relations between Russia and the US/EU will rely upon this country. Unless one of the powers makes significant concessions, the relations will be fundamentally strained.




APRIL 13 - 16, 2018

Freedom House: Georgia Heading in the Wrong Direction BY MÁTÉ FÖLDI


ith the not so subtle plastering of Bidzina Ivanishvili on their Fa ce b o o k cove r photo to mark the announcement, Freedom House has released its new report “Nations in Transit 2018: Confronting Illiberalism.” The report offers a country-by-country analysis of the progress and setbacks for democratization in the post-Soviet states, along with the other European former communist countries. According to the report, Georgia’s democracy score worsened in 2017 in comparison to previous years, with it’s overall score now at 4.68 compared with 4.61 in the 2017 & 2016 reports and 4.64 in 2015. The ratings are from a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of democratic progress. Said scores are a reflection of the consensus of the authors of the country report, Freedom House, and its academic advisors. The overall score comprises an average rating for separate categories: national democratic governance; electoral process; civil society; independent media; local governance; judicial framework and independence; and corruption. Scores in Georgia in all of these categories remained unchanged with the exceptions of independent media and judiciary, where the country experienced a decline of 0.25 in both.

“In Georgia, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili stepped down as prime minister after one year in 2013, but he retains control over the ruling Georgian Dream party, which features employees of his companies in its highest ranks. Ivanishvili’s political vendettas and development plans for the capital Tbilisi continue to loom over Georgian politics,” reads the overview of the report. Meanwhile, the country-specific report on Georgia states that 2017 “was, overall, a period of slight setbacks for Georgia’s democratic development. Georgian authorities found it difficult to strike a balance between the contradictory goals of advancing democratization on the one hand and consolidating power on the other.” “The trend of half-hearted democratic reforms that started after the 2012 elections has stalled in recent years. Georgia’s democratic transformation will remain incomplete so long as the priorities of the country’s ruling elites are split between democratization and staying in power,” it continued. The report also states that the decline in the Independent Media rating is the result of “apparently politicized editorial policies at the Georgian Public Broadcaster, continuing pressure on the critical television channel Rustavi 2, and ownership consolidation among progovernment private television stations.” The decline in the Judicial Framework and Independence category is due to “illegal deportation of dissident Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli to

Photo: Freedom House

Azerbaijan and a high-profile case in which a foreign company faced punitive fines after a deeply flawed judicial process.” The report added that while Georgian Dream are usually receptive to public and international concerns, as a semidemocratic regime, they will yet face some issues: “While GD often put party interests ahead of the need for democratic reforms in 2017, the authorities never crossed any red lines and pulled back in most cases when they encountered strong domestic and international resistance. … However, in future, GD will face the dilemma of conflicting interests that is characteristic of most semi-democratic regimes: a genuine consolidated democracy would ultimately endanger

its grip on power,” the report said. With regards to the outlook for 2018, the report states that, “Georgia will not experience any political earthquakes in 2018. The year will be shaped by the upcoming presidential election, which will mark the last time a Georgian president is directly elected by the people. However, after the recent constitutional amendments, the president’s powers have dwindled further, and the ruling party has the ability to overturn presidential vetoes through its parliamentary supermajority. Therefore, even in the rather unlikely event that an opposition candidate wins the presidency, the presidential election will not substantially change the political balance in the country. It remains to be seen whether oppo-

sition parties can stem their trend of fragmentation and close ranks in preparation for parliamentary elections in 2020. For GD, which has mastered the craft of popular semi-democratic politics, the main challenge in 2018 will be tackling the economic and social hardship that feeds public dissatisfaction more than any political issue. The crumbling of the safety net that GD carefully established after 2012 may erode the party’s public support and reduce its chances in the 2020 elections. Georgia’s civil society will continue exerting its influence in political processes throughout 2018, but it is unclear whether Georgia’s media landscape, which suffered from political interference in 2017, will recover in 2018.”




Strengthening Governance & Improving Public Services

Mariam Antia



galoblishvili Kipiani Dzidziguri (MKD) has been at the forefront of the Georgian legal market for more than two decades, emerging as a strong, highly competitive and well-respected Georgian law firm, providing a full range of legal services to its clients. The firm is proud of the external recognition it has gained through client assessments in a range of international researchbased guides for the legal profession, which regularly list MKD amongst the top performing law firms in Georgia. However, in today’s realm, along with being a law firm of highly recognized legal practitioners, it also views itself as a law firm concerned with defending the system of justice. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to three members of the firm to find out more. “We, as a firm, are willing to have measurable impact on positively changing the Georgian legal ecosystem, promoting equal justice and rule of law through advocacy, policy research or other initiatives,” says Tamara Tkeshelashvili, Member of the Management Board, lawyer. “We are strong believers in helping and giving back to the local community by participating or initiating actions aimed at supporting the rule of law.” MKD provides job training opportunities for law students, and exercises “strategic social investment” by supporting legal education, contributing to shaping the students as competitive legal professionals. “Many of our staff members are involved in teaching at various law schools, dedicating their time and efforts to sharing their practical experience to the students in an academic setting,” Tkeshelashvili tells us. “We, as a business, definitely see our role in the advancement of the rule of law, and we are well aware of the intertwining nature of the relations with the community in

which we operate.” MKD is just a few years younger than the modern Georgian state, which regained its independence back in 1991, so it has had a firsthand view of Georgia’s path to democracy, its attempts at institution building, and has witnessed waves of reforms aimed at reshaping the government institutions for strengthening the governance and improving the public services. “Even though Georgia ranks as the leader in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia for the rule of law, and the corruption perception index is relatively low, there is still a room for greater improvement in these areas,” Mariam Antia, Member of the Management Board, lawyer, tells GEORGIA TODAY. “Increased transparency and straightforward accountability, broader disclosure requirements in both public and private sectors, in our view, would help to enhance Georgia’s profile as an attractive investment destination - a place with predictable rules of the game for local and international businesses alike.” What she says they observe in Georgia is that the general notion that the law should apply equally to all, without exception, and that the law reigns supreme, is understood. “Nevertheless,” she says, “the application of this principle in daily life still seems challenging. The difficulties are caused both by a lack of uniform application and enforcement of laws by the courts, and by the perception that the laws are not always clear, or for the benefit of the public. Rather, at times, they are viewed as tools for arbitrary manipulation.” MKD recognizes that, in terms of law enforcement, the implementation of the rules and ensuring of judicial independence is the key challenge. The government and the general public must take all necessary measures to ensure the strengthening of the efficiency of the justice system and development of a strong institutional framework for an impartial and highly professional judiciary. “Without fair and predictable justice system and user-friendly and

business-oriented public services, we cannot expect investors to have longterm commitments with respect to Georgia,” Antia notes. “Effective governance, leading to provision of reliable public services, is the most genuine denominator when speaking about the overall effect of key ingredients of a rule-based order and entrepreneurial economy,” Victor Kipiani, partner and co-founder of MKD, tells us. “Driving state institutions to work better and be result-oriented is to make the country a better place in which to live and work, both for its nationals and expats. Putting it in a simple way: if you are not happy with the environment you live in; if you are hesitant about the true impact of your work or unsure how your efforts resonate through effective governance (read: public services), then clearly there is a big disconnect between a state and its nationals legal-wise and in terms of emotional bonds. And, in fact, we often seem to assume that effective management in the public sector has the same basic qualities as effective management in the private sector.” He notes that public halls, both central and regional, contribute a lot to solidifying those bonds and making businesses and individuals feel that the state cares and supports them in every possible way. “In a very practicable meaning, the famous concept of a “one-stop” public service delivery, with 450 services delivered in one accessible spot, speaks eloquently for itself. On top of this is the concept of a unified business services' hall aimed at making doing business easier and more cost-effective. Among other initiatives, these are the very material steps to illustrate a real sense of accountability from public institutions and making them responsible for developing business and infrastructure.” “Such junctures facilitate breaking through the soviet legacy to give citizens a sense that the state is their own but not something which is detached from their daily needs and expectations. Such a ‘dynamic flux’ serves not only a mundane flow but a wider agenda too,

Tamar Tkeshelashvili

Victor Kipiani

as it helps to solidify nation-wide stability by making a still impoverished country less susceptible to internal shocks and external impacts. This is even truer for Georgia which tries to develop as a vibrant democracy in an environment hostile to institutional building and rule of law,” Kipiani says, going on to highlight that the ultimate success of Georgian reforms is heavily

hinged in the opening the doors for greater participation in political and economic processes and, as a result, accomplishing greater inclusivity. “This is where we are still observing the stumbling point, as the middle-class is in its embryonic stage, the vestiges still exist of somewhat monopolistic business elites, plus there is a lack of access to much needed finances to start and grow a business, all causing a virtuous circle by not introducing up-to-date dynamics and achieving the mentioned inclusiveness,” he adds. “Among the instruments of modernizing the political and economic system, and apart from a well-know toolkit of political leverages and initiatives, there is a reversing of the legislative pendulum towards downsizing the red tape and reforming the public services, essentially by putting it on the authentic premises of meritocracy and transforming it into a bona fide service provider,” Kipiani says. “Any other attempts to develop the Georgian economy would miss the mark of sustainability and inclusiveness; that, in turn, risks failing to replace old economic realms with new ones while undermining and destabilizing power relations in politics. In view of these challenges, which are so characteristic to systems in transition, girdling the Georgian pace of finally transiting from "drifting" to an institutionally-based net of economic and political "free floats" by deeper critical junctures is an undeniable pass to the point of emerging as a modernized country with an innovative and competitive business habitat. At the same time, however, we all should bear in mind that modernizing the economic fundamentals is good, but this should not be as like paying lip service to democratizing political life and empowering fairly broad sections of society. Otherwise, you would not be able to engineer prosperity and, consequently will fail to make the nation impervious to the extent admissible nowadays, to social unrests or outer aggressions, be they through exercise of either soft or smart power.”




APRIL 13 - 16, 2018

Anaklia City Makes Productive Visit to the United Arab Emirates


n April 8-11, representatives of Anaklia City paid a working visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In the framework of the visit, a memorandum of mutual relations between the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), the main financial center of Abu Dhabi, and Anaklia City was signed, aiming to facilitate the deepening of relations between the sides as well as economic cooperation. The memorandum was signed by Executive Director of Anaklia City Ms.

Keti Bochorishvili, and Mr. Phillip Richard, Director of International Affairs of the ADGM. First Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Mr. Dimitry Kumsishvili, and Chairman of the ADGM, Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, attended the signing ceremony. After establishing diplomatic relations in 1992 between the two countries, the relationship has been growing continually in the economic, administrative and social spheres. The new agreement between Anaklia City and the ADGM will help share experience in finance, service, regulations and other directions and is a basis for future relations. “Today, we held a very important meeting with the ADGM to share the experience collected in this economic zone,” Mr. Kumsishvili said on the day of the signing. “ADGM is a global financial center and leader for finding innovative ways to develop business,” Bochorishvili noted. “This cooperation is a very important step for deepening knowledge between these two zones, as well as in terms of progressing relations and attracting investments.” According to ADGM’s Executive Director, the signing of the memorandum with Anaklia City is also good for them: “We are ready to strengthen our cooperation and strengthen our international partnership with Anaklia City, which can become a leading economic zone through the innovative and international platform of ADGM.” Representatives of Anaklia City held a meeting with one of the largest global port and special economic zone operator - DP World. The meeting was arranged in Dubai Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza), at the head office of DP World. Directors of logistic parks and economic zones, and leading team for business development attended the meeting. Representatives of the DP World stated they found the project details very interesting and had decided to visit Georgia soon. “Strengthening the role of Georgia alongside the One Belt, One Road initiative will be studied and the participation of DP World considered in the process, especially oriented on Anaklia Port,” said Minister Kumsishvili after meeting the Crown Prince of United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The Georgian Delegation attended the AIM conference, at which the Minister spoke about the Georgian economy and its investment opportunities. Notably, Bilateral Investment Treaty came in force that will further increase the investments from the UAE to Georgia. CEO of Anaklia City Keti Bochorishvili presented the project Anaklia City and the Special Economic Zone and different opportunities for the companies.

Anaklia City’s executives also made visits to large logistics and industrial parks in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Meetings were held with the top management representatives of the KIZAD – Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi and ZonesCorp, as well as with the world’s best economic zone of 2017 – DMCC – Dubai Multi Commodities Centre. Ms. Bochorishvili held meetings with leading real estate development companies and the largest investment agencies in the United Arab Emirates, such as EMAAR, Eagle Hills, Al Ain, Al Shafar properties, etc. Anaklia’s investment potential and future cooperation perspectives were discussed in the framework of the meetings. "Our visit was very important for the development of the Anaklia Special Economic Zone concept and for partner companies to take an interest in it. The United Arab Emirates is famous for creating the economic zones in the world, enabling it to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the last 20 years. We have held meetings with successful economic zones, as well as those in the fields of industry and logistics, financial, trade and other services. Our goal is for the Anaklia Special Economic Zone to be exceptional in its integrated, state of the art infrastructure as well as the efficient business operations and services. I have to note that this project has unprecedented support of the Georgian and the UAE governments,” Ms. Bochorishvili noted. Anaklia City started working on developing Anaklia City and Special Economic Zone in June 2017. In this period the company managed to make connections with more than 100 international companies and started partnership with many of them. Cooperation Agreements have been signed with the worldrenowned, largest and most advanced Incheon Economic Zone (South Korea), the Khorgos Economic Zone (Kazakhstan), and various international logistics and transport companies, including the Korean company Pantos Logistics and European company Gebrüder Weiss. The work on the Master Plan of the Anaklia City has already begun, and the leading British company BuroHappold Engineering is working on it.




Georgia Expects Group of Investors from UAE

Fuckup Nights is Coming to Tbilisi BY MÁTÉ FÖLDI


es, you read the headline correctly. No, it’s not some pagan, raunchy, sex-filled, immoral debauchery that’s about to ‘dirty’ the ‘sacred moral’ of our beloved capital. Rather, it’s an exciting business event of sorts where people come together to share their stories of professional failure. Every month, with events around the world, Fuckup Nights gets three to four people to stand-up in a room full of strangers and share their own professional fuckups. “The stories of the businesses that crash and burn, the partnership deal that goes sour, the product

that has to be recalled: we tell them all. Started in Mexico in 2012, today Fuckup Nights happen in more than 80 countries and more than 250 cities,” reads the event description. Entrepreneurs, executives, managers, creative professionals — Fuckup Nights if for anyone and everyone who wants to learn from the failures of others and kickback with a beer and find a new way to entertain themselves. Fabrika will play host to the first edition of this event on April 13 at 19:00. Speakers for the event “are personalities, who are not afraid to try; they failed, learned, continued their journey, achieved success, and are ready to share their stories with you.” And on Friday night it will be Vakho Vakhtangishvili, Co-founder and CEO, Leavingstone;

Beso Papiashvili, Co-founder and CEO, Taxify Georgia; Nino Daraseli, Founder, online platform AT.ge; and Niko Nergadze, Journalist, Former Editor-in-Chief, Playboy Georgia magazine sharing their fuck ups with you. While the event will be held in Georgian, the Q&A and networking will be multilingual. The event is co-organized by Tbilisi Startup Bureau, Impact Hub Tbilisi, Fabrika Hostel and Fabrika • ფაბრიკა, and sponsored by Karva Beer, Blue Ocean Success Library, Kedari Ventures, Scoot Scoot, Camora Basement. Seats are limited, so make sure to get those tickets quickly at: Eventer.ge, biletebi.ge or TKT.ge #sharethefailure



group of investors and businessmenfromtheUnitedArab Emirates plan to visit Georgia in order to explore Georgia’s investment potential. Georgia’s Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development reports that the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Dimitry Kumsishvili participated in the meeting held between President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zaid al Nahyan during the official visit to the United Arab Emirates. The Press Service of the Ministry of Economy says that the sides considered the opportunity of offering Georgian

wine to tourists. "Several important delegations will visit Georgia to explore new investment opportunities," Kumsishvili said, adding the sides focused on the issue of accelerating the signing of a free trade agreement between Georgia and the Gulf countries. It was noted that the good will of the governors of the United Arab Emirates is of utmost importance in this regard. The meeting also discussed reforms and achievements that the Georgian side has in terms of economic development. The decision to set up a joint economic committee and an investment group, that will facilitate cooperation between countries, was assessed by the sides as an important step. Georgian President Margvelashvili and Ministry Kumsishvili have already completed their visit to the UAE.

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Georgia’s Defense Ministry Launches Education Project at Schools BY THEA MORRISON


eorgia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) has launched a new educational project at public schools named Our Army, which will raise student awareness of Georgia’s military system. The project started on April 10 and within its frames, military servicemen of Georgian Armed Forces will deliver lectures on the defense sphere in public schools throughout Georgia. The MoD reports that the representatives of the armed forces will meet 11th and 12th grade students throughout the country and will inform them about the history, goals, Defense Ministry reforms, and NATO-Georgia relations. The lectures will also cover such fields as obligatory military service and contracted service, the reserve and mobilization concept, international missions and exercises, and many other topics related to Georgia and its military self-defense.

The MoD is implementing the project in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia. The presentation of the project was held in Public School 175 of Tbilisi, opened by Georgia’s Defense Minister, Levan Izoria. “This is an unprecedented project aimed at providing information to Georgian students about the military system of our country. The project is also targeted to increase a patriotic spirit in our youth which will be achieved through the real communication of teenagers with servicemen,” Izoria stated at the presentation. Deputy Education Minister Lia Gigauri noted that, at the initial stage, the project involves 150 public schools, adding in the future it will be expanded. “From 2019, all public schools of Georgia will be included in the project. The students are very interested in such activities,” she said. Gigauri explained that the duty of every citizen is to protect the security of their country, adding that the project will enrich the knowledge of students in this direction.


APRIL 13 - 16, 2018

Tbilisi Neighborhoods to be Rehabilitated

Photo: State Construction Company



umerous neighborhoods in Tbilisi will undergo large-scale construction works in the upcoming months. This week the preparations have finished prior to starting the overdue rehabilitation of streets, bridges, walkways and other aspects of parts of Tbilisi’s infrastructure. During rush hour, the city usually suffocates in its own smog, a situation to be worsened by the upcoming works. However, with the old adage "you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs," there is light at the end of the tunnel after the

rehabilitation works are complete. "The finalization of the infrastructural renovation and improvement is planned for 2019," Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze announced today. His statement elaborated on the exact locations of theworks, while estimating the total allocated budget at several million GEL. On Ioane Petritsi Street, underground communications and kerbstones will be renovated, while the street’s asphalt layer will be renewed. The Mayor emphasized the total revision of traffic schemes, which will be supported by the traffic police as they have first-hand experience of congestion and bottleneck spots on various streets. City Hall has said it will invest 2 million GEL in improving Ioane Petritsi Street alone.

Furthermore, it was announced that Ponichala and Gldani would undergo similar rehabilitation works. Deputy Mayor of Tbilisi Irakli Bendeliani explained the details by pointing to the bridges connecting Upper and Lower Ponichala. The renovation of the bridge will consume an extra 2.3 million GEL. Contrary to the works at Ioane Petritsi Street, the works in Ponichala are expected to be finished by the end of 2018. Gladni is the most expensive project, totaling 8 million GEL for a total revamp of the Gladni bridge, which is expected to take the longest. The various projects are expected to slow down traffic. Commuters are thus advised to plan in additional time during rush hour.




APRIL 13 - 16, 2018

Keeping a Perspective on Racism

A screen grab from a video showing a number of white men confronting and attacking black students outside a sports field in Tbilisi's Digomi neighborhood on April 8. Image source: rferl.org



everal days ago, several videos of Georgians assaulting a group of black youths were spread on social media and Georgia’s principle television networks. The Georgian perpetrators allege that the black young men had been aggressive to a group of Georgian children playing football on a public pitch, and their assault on the foreigners was in defense of their children. The victims claim all they wanted to do was play football, but the Georgians wanted the pitch for themselves and so kicked them off it…quite literally. One of the Georgian men (who looked about sixty) launched a flailing kick at one of the black lads that knocked him down. It is encouraging to see that there has been a torrent of comments from Georgians condemning racism and publicly apologizing for the behavior of their countrymen. Less heartening has been the sight of other Georgians supporting the attack – mostly men, but also women. Exactly whose fault this was remains to be properly established; the victims of the attack claim that although they called the police, the officers were unwilling to help, and implored them to just forget about the incident. I’m inclined to believe them. Female acquaintances of mine who

have called the police with complaints of domestic violence have reported a similar reluctance to do their job. This, I suppose, is a consequence of the police being made up mostly of working-class Georgian men, who, as a group, generally have particular ideas about race, sexuality, gender and being asked to tackle crimes committed by other working-class Georgian men. I also think it unlikely that a group of black young men would be aggressive towards Georgian children: I’m sure they are very aware of what the harvest would be, ie. something like the incident which happened anyway. Dare I say it’s far more likely a group of Georgian children saw the black lads playing football, decided they wanted the pitch for themselves, and told their fathers and all their mates that they had been insulted (if they even needed to); that’s well within the realms of possibility, for the Georgian child is the most entitled, arrogant creature on this planet. Their conceit makes the Chinese look modest. Whether the Georgian men were carrying knives or guns is another aspect left unresolved; there has been mention of threats made with firearms, and it has been alleged some of those involved in the altercation were carrying knives. However, it can clearly be seen that one man in the video is wielding a metal bar, and that others landed punches and kicks – whether they were carrying firearms

and blades or not, these men must be arrested for assault. This ugly incident, however, does prove a point that I have been making for some time – that as Tbilisi modernizes, the attitudes of certain sections of the populations of both the city and the country as a whole will become clearer. Soon, it will no longer be accurate to speak of ‘Georgians’ in the way in which foreigners have become accustomed to in years past; this sort of racist assault would be far less likely to happen in the Vake, Saburtalo, Vera and Sololaki parts of Tbilisi. Two friends of mine were threatened with knives here two years ago, but it was on the other side of the river close to Marjanishvili, the side which has not seen anywhere near as much development as other sections of the city. This isn’t anything unusual for any capital city, and I think it is important for all sides involved to keep some perspective. There are racist people everywhere, after all, barely a year goes by without the American police shooting unarmed black people. Furthermore, despite modern-thinking and LGBT Georgians thinking the West is a liberal paradise, a gay friend of mine was verbally abused in a street in England while walking with his partner. To be fair, Georgia struggles more with ethnic and sexual minorities than other places due to their relatively new status in this country, but even the ‘tolerant’ countries of the West suffer from prejudice. Would a gay person be at risk of harassment on New York’s 5th Avenue or London’s Piccadilly Circus? Unlikely. But rural Kentucky or the backstreets of Manchester would perhaps be a different story. Nationwide, Georgia has a long way to go before minorities are treated as equals, but so does everywhere else: perhaps the very idea of total equality is nothing but a liberal dream that will never come to pass. But the denunciation of the attack by many young Georgians gives me hope for the future, and the intolerance faced by minorities in Europe and America should be remembered, so as not to compare this country with a Western ideal that does not, in fact, exist.

Georgian-Jewish Relations Granted Status of Intangible Cultural Heritage Monument BY THEA MORRISON


26-century-long unique relationship between the Georgians and Jews has been given the Status of Intangible Cultural Heritage Monument. The information was released by Georgia’s Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, according to whom Georgia has already addressed UNESCO for the relationship to be recognized as an intangible heritage monument on an international level. “I congratulate you on this day. We celebrate it with great joy,” the PM stated at the Davit Baazov Jewish History Museum in Georgia, where a special reception was held. Head of the museum, Givi Gambashidze, showed various exhibited items to the Prime Minister and told him the history of the museum. “It is our greatest wealth that the first

Jews settled before the 26th century on Georgian soil and since then we have been jointly creating a common cultural heritage which enriches us both - Jewish and Georgian cultures,” Kvirikashvili said. The Prime Minister expressed gratitude to all the people who contributed to the development of the friendship between Georgian and Jewish people, including Jamlet Khukhashvili, a wellknown sports commentator and public figure, noting that he is one of the most

remarkable examples of the GeorgianJewish friendship. “It is important that this day became the basis even of more friendly and remarkable relationship between the two peoples,” Kvirikashvili said, highlighting that Antisemitism has never existed in Georgia. Jews are among the oldest communities in Georgia, their migration traceable back to the country during the Babylonian captivity in the 6th century BC.



Peel me a Mango: Cancun, Mexico



e hit the ground running, shed our multiple clothing layers for the 30-degree warmth, got through passports/customs at the airports and onto a bus for the station near our basic hotel in Cancun center. I had only initially booked this for the first two days of our seven, to see whether we’d like it, which we quickly decided we did. So I booked the remaining days and we had our home base. It included a swimming pool, continental breakfast and free unlimited Wi-Fi, though only one of its reception guys speaks reasonable English. This, we are told, is tolerable out here away from the city’s real Hotel Zone, but in that place English knowledge is a must in the hospitality industry. Mexico, for local comparison, has about 28 times the land area of Georgia, and with 120 million people, some 30 times its population, too (and in both cases, roughly a quarter of them in the capital city, so… about 30 million in Mexico City). Cancun is a city of about 630,000, on the Yucatan peninsula, this being originally a major center for the Maya people (about which more in future). The city began to be developed as a tourism hotspot almost from nothing by the national government in 1970, so it’s very young and has sprung up very fast. Since it was about midday by the time we settled in, we opted for a foot tour of the local area to orient ourselves rather than racing off to the sea just yet. There are many indoor and outdoor markets here, with a bewildering variety of fruits and vegetables and more, a good collection of which my wife bought to show at our village school in Svaneti and wow the children and her colleagues. Some of these I knew from either Zimbabwe or Indonesia, such as mangoes, avocados or the huge jackfruit. Others we were seeing for the first time and had to ask what they were called. At least someone was usually on hand to help us with our nonexistent Spanish.

We decided to do a mix of restaurant-hopping and cooking for ourselves, splurge and save, with a few special excursion treats afforded by the savings. This served our budget and interests well, as we wanted to see more of local life than five-star hotels would offer, but also to experience some of the really special things too. The markets include several shops called Botanica, which seem to offer a range of products from simple natural remedies to outright spiritualist and occult items. Their signage affirms this, with Death a prominent personage. Catholicism has fused most interestingly with the ancient local religions. Day Two saw us take a local bus to the free beach zone tucked between endless hotels with their more exclusive, although not unavailable, fronts. But ours had permanent huts for shade, first come first served, and we nabbed one of these. Slather on the sun cream to our winter-white bodies, and plunge into the Caribbean, the sheer intense hues of which, greens and blues, were a delightful assault on eyes much too attuned to half a year’s snow’s rather more limited palette of white through deadly cold glacial. The salt air’s smell, salt water on the tongue, and crash of the small but powerful waves added to the entire sensory experience. An Eden, really, although summer’s 45-degree heat can be missed. Spring is just right. And the local serpent, the crocodile, sticks to the lagoons, which is one less worry in the sea. The sun cream, however, was either out of date or not nearly enough, as we discovered by evening. Parts of us turned virtually lobster red, and we had to add painkillers and aloe gel to our treatment, along with more of the cream, a second source which seemed to stop any further burning. Typical British tourist, I looked! It did not spoil our week, though, mercifully. More adventures to come. Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1800 members, at www.facebook. com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti





APRIL 13 - 16, 2018


TBILISI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 00 44 66 April 14 TURANDOT Starring: Irine Ratiani, Anzor Khidasheli, Bing Bing Wang, Besik Gabitashvili, Aleksei Shapovalov, Philipe Gachava, Paata Sukhitashvili, Vano Galuashvili, Tamaz Saginadze. Musical Director- Zaza Azmaiparashvili Conductor- Alberto Veronesi (Italy) Director- Alfonso Signorini (Italy) Scenographer- Carla Tolomeo (Italy) Costumes- Fausto Puglisi and Leila Fteita (Italy) Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 15-100 GEL April 15 TURANDOT Starring: Nana Kavtarashvili, Zaza Zaalisvhili, Bing Bing Wang, George Chelidze, Otar Shishinashvili, Gia Makharadze, Paata Sukhitashvili, George Mchedlishvili, Aleksandre Dekanoidze. Musical Director- Zaza Azmaiparashvili Conductor- Alberto Veronesi (Italy) Director- Alfonso Signorini (Italy) Scenographer- Carla Tolomeo (Italy) Costumes- Fausto Puglisi and Leila Fteita Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 15-100 GEL TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATER Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 www.musictheatre.ge April 15 WELCOME TO GEORGIA A musical, theatrical play and romantic comedy telling a story about Georgia and its people by combining song, dance, culture, traditions, history, national costumes and local cuisine. Musical Language: English, some Georgian (with English subtitles) Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 60-80 GEL SHALIKASHVILI THEATER Address: 37 Shota Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 595 50 02 03

April 14 SHAKESPEARE SONNETS Performance of William Shakespeare's sonnets Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 15 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 April 15, 19 AUTUMN OF MY SPRING Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 598 19 29 36

READY PLAYER ONE Directed by Steven Spielberg Cast: Letitia Wright, Olivia Cooke, Hannah John-Kamen Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 16:30 Ticket: 10 GEL

TOMB RAIDER Directed by Roar Uthaug Cast: Alicia Vikander, Hannah John-Kamen, Walton Goggins Genre: Action, Adventure Language: Russian Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 9,10 GEL

RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge

MARY MAGDALENE (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 14:30, 22:30 Ticket: 14-19 GEL

Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL April 13-19 RAMPAGE (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 14:30,17:00,19:45, 22:30 Ticket: 9-14 GEL

April 13 THE STORY OF A MURDERER Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL

MARY MAGDALENE (Info Above) Start time: 19:45 Ticket: 13-14 GEL

April 19 SIMBIOSIS One-act choreographic sketch Director and Choreographer: George Ghonghadze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 GEL

DEATH WISH Directed by Eli Roth Cast: Bruce Willis, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue Genre: Action, Crime, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 17:15, 19:30 Ticket: 10-14 GEL


AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 GEL April 13-19 RAMPAGE Directed by Brad Peyton Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: English Start time: 20:10 Language: Russian Start time: 16:45,19:30, 22:15 Ticket: 9-14 GEL MARY MAGDALENE Directed by Garth Davis Cast: Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Chiwetel Ejiofor Genre: Drama Language: Russian Start time: 14:30,19:30, 20:00 Ticket: 9-14 GEL

WINCHESTER Directed by Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig Cast: Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O'Prey Genre: Biography, Fantasy, Horror Language: Russian Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 13-14 GEL READY PLAYER ONE (Info Above) Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 13-14 GEL CAVEA GALLERY Address: 2/4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 200 70 07

WINCHESTER (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 22:15 Language: Russian Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 14-19 GEL READY PLAYER ONE (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 14:00 Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 13-19 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF 18TH-20TH CENTURIES NUMISMATIC TREASURY Exhibition showcasing a long history of money circulation on the territory of modern Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834. EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE

Every Wednesday ticket: 8 GEL April 13-19


RAMPAGE (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 19:45 Language: Russian Start time: 12:00, 14:15, 17:00, 20:00, 22:15 Ticket: 10-19 GEL

MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION

IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81 April 12– 22 EXHIBITION UKRAINE & GEORGIA, VALUES IN TRADITIONS SIGHNAGHI MUSEUM Address: 8 Rustaveli Alley, Sighnaghi Telephone: 223 24 48 April 21 – May 31 EXHIBITION DOLLS OF JAPAN GALLERY

DIMITRI SHEVARDNADZE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Shota Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 215 73 00 March 30 – April 18 EXHIBITION ASK FOR IT ANYWHERE ERTI GALLERY Address: 19 P. Ingorokva Str. April 3-21 BLACK I SEA LEVAN SONGULASHVILI & CHRISTIAN AWE New York-based visual artist Levan Songulashvili's recent works in conversation with Berlin-based artist Christian Awe in Berlin, Germany. GALLERY CONTAINER Address: 10 Sh. Radiani Str Telephone: 599 01 38 38 April 11-14 Lasha Beraia’s Exhibition NEW YORK-LONDON-TBILISI The majority of these paintings were exhibited at the Art Expo New York 2017 and in London at The Brick Lane Gallery MUSIC

REPUBLIC Address: Rose Revolution Sq. Telephone: 240 22 00 April 14 NINO KATAMADZE & INSIGHT The audience will be the first to hear an original collaboration between Nino Katamadze and Kordz and experience extraordinary sounds. After the concert, guests will be accompanied by the music set of Kordz. Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 40-200 GEL SPACEHALL Address: 2 A. Tsereteli Ave. April 14 TREEBAL: SONIC ENTITY IMAGINARIUM ACIDWAVE OBRI & NEVER THE SAME AKA ZEN DECORATIONS & VISUAL: BOTN Decoration+Visuals team (Thessaloniki, Greece) Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 20-40 GEL TBILISI SPORTS PALACE Address: 26 May Sq. Telephone: 233 33 11 April 15 GORAN BREGOVI Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 31.50-108 GEL TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili Ave. Telephone: 99 00 99 April 19 GEORGIAN TREASURE Charity concert of Georgian Folk Song and Dance State Academic Ensemble ‘Erisioni’ in support of the Monk Andrew Foundation Let’s build a ‘Happy House’ together Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 15-30 GEL




Tbilisi Jazz Festival 2018


n April 28-30 the 21st Tbilisi Jazz Festival will be held, as per tradition hosted within the Tbilisi Concert Hall. The festival program, envisages a master class of famous jazz performers for Georgian students and numerous concerts featuring world famous musicians. According to the organizers, from 2018, the Tbilisi Jazz Festival will be held annually at the end of April instead of autumn and will be coincided with another important date for jazz lovers: International Jazz Day. On April 28, the American jazz Trio "Bad Plus" will open the Festival at the Event Hall. Hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, the trio consists of bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Orrin Evans and drummer Dave King. Their music combines elements of modern avant-garde jazz with rock and pop influences. On April 29, the American group "Naturally 7," an American music group with a distinct a cappella style they call "vocal play," will entertain the audience. According to group leader Roger Thomas, their music is "the art of becoming an instrument using the human voice to create sound." They simulate the sounds of an instrumental band using only their voices, mouths and distortion effects. On April 30, on International Jazz Day, the 21st jazz festival will be closed by the incredible Miles Electric Band, with special guest famous saxophonist, Ravi Coltrane. Also during the Festival, audiences will get the

chance to enjoy the talent of the Sandro Bibich Trio will be accompanied by Sandro Kvachadze

(bass/vocals), Gigi Tsintsadze (guitar), Daniel Adikashvili (drum); the Conservatoire Jazz Band - Liliko

Korkotashvili (vocals), Mikheil Japaridze (bass), Luka Topuria (key), Gigi Tsintsadze (guitar) and Gio Kapanadze (drum). Director of Eastern Promotion George Kereselidze told GEORGIA TODAY that apart from spring, autumn and summer festivals, there might be one in winter, too. Eastern Promotion is planning to organize a winter jazz festival outside of Tbilisi, perhaps in one of the winter resorts. Alongside this news Kereselidze told us that the celebration of International Jazz Day is very important for jazz lovers, which is why the Tbilisi Jazz Festival is being held on April 28-30. “It is very important that Georgian artists have such a great opportunity to play alongside the greatest bands and share their music with Georgian public and visitots,� he said. International Jazz Day is an International Day declared by UNESCO in 2011. It is celebrated annually on April 30. Jazz Day is chaired by the brainchild of jazz pianist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Herbie Hancock. The celebration is recognized on the calendars of both UNESCO and the United Nations. Jazz day is celebrated by many countries throughout the world with different concerts. Among them is Georgia, which will celebrate this important date from 2018 with the 21-year tradition of the Jazz Festival. Festival nominee: TBC Bank's Personal Banking Service TBC STATUS; Supporters of the festival: Ministry of Culture and Sport of Georgia, Tbilisi City Hall.

Georgian Actor Merab Ninidze to Appear in Homeland TV Series



amous Georgian actor Merab Ninidze will appear in the seventh season of the popular American TV series Homeland. The IMDb has already included him in the cast list. The Georgian actor is participating in the 9th episode of the season 7 'Useful Idiot,' where he plays the role of a senior Russian intelligence chief. We'll only get to his voice, but in the next series the audience can expect to see him in dif-

ferent scenes of the series. Ninidze was also filmed in BBC crime drama series McMafia, in the role of Vadim Kalyagin, a member of the Russian Mafia. The new series was aired this winter on BBC One. Homeland it is an American spy thriller television series developed by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa based on the Israeli series Prisoners of War, which was created by Gideon Raff. It follows CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), top in her field despite being bipolar, making her volatile and unpredictable. The series has received positive reviews, with its first two seasons gaining near universal praise. It has also won several prestigious awards.



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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1039  

April 13 - 16, 2018

Issue #1039  

April 13 - 16, 2018