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Issue no: 1035

• MARCH 30 - APRIL 2, 2018

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue...

Sexual Harassment to Become Punishable in Georgia NEWS PAGE 3

MEP Gomes on the Tatunashvili Case POLITICS PAGE 8

FOCUS ON GEORGIAN FILM

PAGE 17

Meet the organizers of the London-based Georgian Film Festival 'Life through Cinema'

Tbilisi Mayor Suspends Constructions at Lisi Lake BY THEA MORRISON

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bilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze has declared that all the planned and already agreed constructions at Lisi Lake will be suspended while City Hall studies each case individually. The Mayor explained that the suspension is necessary in order to stop “chaotic” constructions in one of Tbilisi’s best recreational zones. “At this stage, it is necessary to temporarily suspend constructions in the area of Lisi. The study of the potential of this area has already begun. I would like to ask the Urban Development Service to set up a common vision - the

Development Framework Plan, which will be used for development of urban processes in future,” Kaladze stated, adding that urban development should be implemented in a way to

increase the capital’s economic and tourism potential. “The interests of our city, private owners and investors should be equally protected. These three directions should be in harmony with each other in order to develop the capital,” he added. Deputy Mayor Maia Bitadze explained that the constructions which already have foundations will not be suspended. Those investors who have already bought plots at the Lizi Lake and have their construction plans approved by the City Hall are unhappy with the Mayor’s decision. They believe this step will devaluate the price of flats on the territory and will affect their business and complain that Kaladze should have consulted them before announcing his decision.

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Russian Policy in the South Caucasus: Nexus of Appeasement & Coercion POLITICS PAGE 9

Will Mobile & Internet Tariffs Be Raised? BUSINESS PAGE 11

The Endeavor to Improve the Life of Others: Paata Sabelashvili on Drugs & the LGBT Community SOCIETY PAGE 14

Natakhtari Becomes Licensed Producer of Staropramen Beer

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Miles Electric Band Feat. Ravi Coltrane Signed for Tbilisi Jazz Fest CULTURE PAGE 19


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 30 - APRIL 2, 2018

Georgia Marks One Year of Visa-Liberalization with EU BY THEA MORRISON

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xactly one year ago, Georgia was granted visa-free travel with the European Union and on March 28, 2017, the first Georgians, composed of a group of governmental officials, students, scholars and media representatives, took their first visa-free trip to the EU. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, 192,453 Georgian citizens have visited the Schengen Zone 258,663 times, while 1001 Georgians were refused entry to EU territory. Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia, Vakhtang Makharoblishvili, stated that according to a December 20 report by the European Commission, Georgia has been successfully implementing its visaliberalization requirements. However, there have been some specific problems in recent months regarding the violation of visa-free rules and increased number of asylum-seekers from Georgia. “In this regard, we started very active work both in our country and with our partners and the EU, in Brussels,"

Makharoblishvili said. "A number of legislative amendments have been planned, as has an information campaign on the issue of asylum seekers. All countries where police attachés are sent from Georgia positively evaluate this institute. So we can say that we have been trying to respond to these challenges instantly." Georgian Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, also made a statement regarding the anniversary. “This is the greatest achievement of our country, the result of steps taken by the government, but at the same time, the outcome of the European choice of our population. Therefore, we are proud that Georgia has achieved our citizens being able to move freely in the Schengen Area countries, but this is not just about visa free travel: it is a great political step and a sign of confidence from the European Union towards Georgia. Once again, I would like to thank all of our partners, our friends, who have taken this step towards us," Kvirikashvili said. The visa-free regime with the EU took effect on March 28, 2017, meaning all Georgians holding biometric passports can now enter the Schengen Area for 90 days within any 180-day period for vaca-

tion, business, or any other purpose except work. Georgians are able to travel without visas to the following 22 EU member states: Belgium, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithu-

ania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Greece, France, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Finland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. Georgians can also travel without visas to four non-EU-member states (Iceland,

Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) as well as four Schengen candidate countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania and Croatia). Exceptions for visa-free travel include Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Russia Fire Update: Number of Injured Now 76 BY TOM DAY

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he operation headquarters of the shopping mall in Kemerovo told reporters today that another eight people have received medical attention following the deadly inferno, now making the total number of injured 76. "In total, 76 people were injured in the fire, including 27 children," a spokesperson said. 14 people remain in hospital, including two children. 62 of the injured continue to receive treatment on an out-

patient basis, while 14, including two children, remain in internal care. As for the deceased, 27 of the 64 bodies have been identified so far, according to the Kemerovo Region Main Directorate of the Russian Emergencies Ministry, Alexander Mamontov. "Sixty-four people were killed; investigators are carrying out measures to identify the deceased: 27 bodies have been identified, and four identified bodies were sent by the Russian Investigative Committee for further investigation. 14 people will be buried today. The subsequent identification procedure will be conducted based on collected genetic material," he said. Georgian Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili

tweeted yesterday, expressing sympathy to the families of the deceased. "I would like to express my sorrow at the death of dozens of people, unfortunately including children, at a shopping mall fire in #Kemerovo, Russia. I offer my sincere condolences and sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims, and the Russian people." The blaze broke out in a shopping mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo at 17:00 (14:00 Tbilisi time) on Sunday 25 on an upper level of the complex during the school holidays. The mall’s shops and entertainment areas were crowded. The cause of the fire is not yet known, but a full investigation has been launched.

Image: Maxim Grigoriev/TASS

43rd Round of Geneva Int’l Talks Ends without Results BY THEA MORRISON

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fficial Tbilisi has released a statement regarding the 43rd round of the Geneva International Discussions, the only format of an ongoing international dialogue between Georgia and Russia, held on March 27-28 in Geneva. They stated the Russian Federation had demonstrated a “destructive approach and with deliberate provocative statements brought the talks into a deadlock over the issue of non-use of force.” The non-use of force is one of the key issues of the Geneva Discussions. Georgia made a one-sided promise about the non-use of force in 2010 and demands the same from the Russian Federation. However, Russia, which claims that it does not consider itself a part of the conflict, wants Georgia to sign such agreements with its breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Such an initiative is unacceptable for the Georgian side. The talks are usually held within a two meeting-group format. At one meeting,

the sides discuss security and stability issues in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, while the second meeting concerns the safe return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees to their homes. The discussions are held with CoChairmanship of the EU, UN and OSCE, and with the participation of Georgia, the Russian Federation and the USA. The representatives of the Sokhumi and Tskhinvali occupation regimes also attend the Working Groups. Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) reports that the Georgian and US sides condemned the death of Archil Tatunashvili, a Georgian citizen who died in occupied Tskhinvali in custody, in unclear circumstances, on February 23. “The Georgian participants imposed full responsibility on the Russian Federation as it carries out effective power control in the occupied regions,” the MFA reports. Tbilisi also demanded the creation of international security mechanisms in the occupied regions of Georgia in full compliance with the ceasefire agreement made between Georgia and Russia in August 2008 after the war.

Photo source: Georgian MFA

“The Georgian and American participants emphasized the necessity of confirmation of the non-use of force by the Russian Federation and its implementation,” the statement reads. At the meeting, the Georgian participants raised the issue of severe security, human rights and humanitarian situations in the occupied territories, as well as Russian steps towards the annexation of Georgia’s occupied regions. Installation of barbed wire fences, artificial barriers and the detention of Geor-

gian citizens at the so called borders were also condemned by Official Tbilisi. As usual, representatives of the Russian federation and de facto authorities of Georgia’s occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia left the Geneva International Talks while discussing the issues on the safe and dignified return of IDPs and refugees to their homes in the occupied regions. The Russian Foreign Ministry also released a statement about the Geneva Talks, saying the Georgian side turned

the meeting into a “propaganda rally.” Moscow says all the statements made by Tbilisi are based on the “faded issue of Russian occupation.” “The Georgian side still tried to impose responsibility on Russia for its own failure to regulate relations with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali,” the Russian side stated. The statement also reads that Georgia accuses Russia in the Tatunashvili case, saying it is “unacceptable.” “Unfortunately, there was no constructive conversation about the general statement of non-use of force,” Russia added. The Kremlin also expressed concern about Georgia-NATO military cooperation, adding there are no guarantees that Georgia will not use its western weapons against its neighbors. “This threatens regional stability in the South Caucasus,” the Russian MFA added. The OSCE also released a statement regarding the Geneva Discussions, saying despite intensive engagement by all participants, it did not prove possible to finalize the draft joint statement on nonuse of force. The organization added that Co-Chairs will continue their consultations in this regard. The next round of talks will be held in June.


NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 30 - APRIL 2, 2018

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Sexual Harassment to Become Punishable in Georgia BY THEA MORRISON

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eorgia’s ruling and opposition parties and nongovernmental sector have agreed to take steps to make sexual harassment punishable by law. The Gender Equality Council, which consists of MPs, NGOs and experts, is working on a legislative package which will be presented to Parliament for approval. The Gender Council has been a permanent body of Parliament since 2010 and aims at providing systematic and coordinated work on gender issues. There are 17 members of the council, of whom 14 are women and three men. The NGOs have been demanding adoption of a law regarding the punishment of sexual harassment for a long time. However, the process was accelerated by the recent allegations of sexual harassment towards Head of Georg i a ’s P u b l i c Re g i s t r y Pa p u n a Ugrekhelidze, and Zviad Devdariani, the Head of the Civil Development Agency (CiDA), which works on social and economic rights and provides effective assistance to IDPs, eco-migrants, former prisoners and probationers, poverty-stricken persons, migrants and ethnic minorities. Both Ugrekhelidze and Devdariani

quit their posts though they rejected the accusations. The exact measure of sanctions for sexual harassment will be decided after consultation between the NGOs and political parties. All the participants in the process agree that the package needs to be elaborated as soon as possible, as the current legislation does not include a definition for sexual harassment. NGO Partnership for Human Rights (PHR) says it is important the adopted draft law be effective. “In order to ensure the adopted regulations really work, a supervision mechanism is also needed,” Ana Arganashvili from the PHR stated. Tinatin Bokuchava from the opposition United National Movement (UNM) says the will of the executive government is decisive in such cases. “Sanctions will not bring any positive results if the government does not realize the problem: the Justice Minister was covering for her employee accused of sexual harassment,” Bokuchava said, referring to the Ugrekhelidze case. The issue of criminalizing sexual harassment was first raised by the NGO Women’s Movement, which presented a petition to Parliament in November 2017 for discussion. The Committee for the Protection of Human Rights of the Parliament of Georgia reviewed the petition and sent it to the Gender Equality Council but

Photo source: Daily Banter

the issue was not put to a vote in Parliament. The Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary, which unites several NGOs, has released a statement regarding the recently voiced sexual allegations. The Coalition considers sexual harassment of women in the workplace and other environments unacceptable and believes that protection from gender-based violence is a fundamental

human right. “The Coalition expresses its solidarity with all women who have experienced sexual harassment from any person, and considers that their rights must be protected by effective legal mechanisms,” the NGOs stated. The statement reads that it is important for Parliament to share the responsibility for the fact that the incomplete legislation deprives the citizens of Georgia protection from sexual harassment.

“At the same time, it is important for NGOs that there is as yet no internal regulations against sexual harassment to develop such mechanisms,” the coalition noted. “These mechanisms should create a safe environment free from the threat of sexual harassment, consider sexual harassment-related complaints in a speedy and substantive manner, and ensure the sanctioning of relevant persons in cases where sexual harassment is established as a fact.”


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 30 - APRIL 2, 2018

MEP Austrevicius: We Must Commit to Working through the Complications and bring the daily life of local citizens on the administrative line to something more acceptable. We should not be short of proposals how to come to the table of negotiations and should proceed with the negotiations expecting very real results.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE

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ontinuing the series of interviews with Members of the European Parliament, GEORGIA TODAY sat down with Lithuanian MEP Petras Austrevicius to pick his brains about the Archil Tatunashvili case and Russo-Georgian relations.

IT TOOK 26 DAYS FOR THE DE FACTO TSKHINVALI GOVERNMENT TO TRANSFER THE BODY TO THE GEORGIAN SIDE, AND THE BODY SHOWS CLEAR SIGNS OF VIOLENCE. WHAT CAN YOU CONCLUDE FROM THIS? I consider this a very serious incident which requires comprehensive investigation not just from the Georgian side but the involvement of so-called South Ossetian authorities must be ensured, and I hope that the European Union representatives will show enough interest to follow the investigation to the very end. Not just because a person vanished, a former soldier, whose position was clearly set to defend the sovereignty of Georgia, but because of the circumstances; why the body was kept for so long. It’s a disgrace to the deceased person. I expect a thorough investigation look forward to seeing the results. Such events illustrate that tensions are high, and the price paid by Georgia is also very high.

I REMEMBER DISCUSSING WITH YOU THE AFGHAN MUKHTARLI CASE. YOU WERE ONE OF THE CO-AUTHORS OF THE RESOLUTION. YET WE HAVE NOT SEEN THE SAME MOMENTUM BEHIND THIS CASE IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT. SHOULD WE EXPECT STRONGER WORDS? THIS INCIDENT RESULTED IN A MASSIVE PUBLIC OUTCRY IN GEORGIA. THE GOV’T AND OPPOSITION ADOPTED A RESOLUTION CALLED OTKHOZORIA-TATUNASHVILI TO PUT SANCTIONS ON THE PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE KILLINGS. CAN WE EXPECT SOME SORT OF RECIPROCATED SYMPATHY FROM THE WESTERN ALLIES? The EU and the West in general have been of the continuous position since 2008 that we do not recognize the annexed and occupied territories, neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia. I agree that sympathy should be demonstrated continuously and for each case- the killed former soldier, interrogation of locals and so on. We have to demonstrate our strong stance of non-acceptance because,

let’s be clear, the Russian Federation better understands the situation when we keep a very strong, solid and united position. We see it in the case of Ukraine; we see it in the case of Moldova as well as in Georgia. This year, we will have the 10th anniversary of those very sad events which led to the loss of a big part of the Georgian territory. I am looking forward to those days and I hope the European Parliament will come up with a strong position, resolution and more. Even waiting for this resolution, events like that show a great demand for the repeated and united position of the European Parliament and the EU in general. I expect that our ministers, during council meetings, as well as our heads of state, will demonstrate solidarity with the Georgian side and of course, not just demonstrate solidarity but bring proposals which might de-escalate the situation

Afghan Mukhtarli has been given a very harsh, unreasonable sentence from the Azerbaijani court based on complete falsification. We see a certain responsibility which comes from the Georgian side as well, because he was forcefully abducted and kidnapped and lost his freedom on the streets of Tbilisi. I don’t think we should neglect the seriousness of all those cases - I mean, if you are kidnapped in pure daylight in the center of Tbilisi, one case might lead to another. We expect more from the engaged partners and this case is not forgotten.

YOU MENTIONED THAT THE SIDES SHOULD COME TOGETHER TO THE NEGOTIATION TABLE, BUT IT’S WIDELY BELIEVED THAT THE DEATH OF TATUNASHVILI WAS REVENGE FOR HIS PARTICIPATION IN THE 2008

WAR. IN TSKHINVALI, PEOPLE DEMANDED THE BODY NOT BE GIVEN TO HIS FAMILY. WHEN WE HAVE SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES, WHAT KIND OF PUBLIC DIPLOMACY IS EXPECTED TO WORK AND WHAT GROUNDS FOR NEGOTIATION DO WE HAVE? Nobody doubts the situation on the administrative line and in the exchange between the authorities is tense. But you know it’s well said by great minds before us that peace agreements can be reached between enemies, not between friends. Of course, we understand all the complications, but we have to agree on the most acceptable compromise and to reach the best you can expect from today’s situation. It means that negotiations will be very complicated, but it’s better to be engaged in negotiations and to expect some results because today’s situation is bad for all. We have to commit ourselves to complicated, long-term, uneasy negotiations in order to reach an acceptable situation. I hope the sovereignty of Georgia is the red line. We have to know it. I don’t want to predict any troubles in future but maybe those who don’t want to reach an agreement create such situations on purpose and they want more complications, less talk, and more uncertainty around Georgia. It doesn’t help Georgia, after all. We wish Georgia to continue growing economically, to be politically stable and engaged. These tensions are in somebody’s plans, but not in Tbilisi’s. Continued on page 6


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 30 - APRIL 2, 2018

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Is the Georgian State Strong Enough to Handle the Squeeze? OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

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eraldically speaking, Georgia has all the attributes of a regular contemporary state: a national anthem, coat of arms, seasonal ceremonies, necessary ranking, an historical pedigree and any other accompanying devices, such as armorial bearing licenses, badges, medals, orders, banners, and mottoes. We have embassies in tens of nations, and those nations have reciprocated with their own diplomatic missions here in Georgia. We have a seat in the United Nations, and in a number of filial bodies thereof. On top of all that, we are also aspiring to gain membership to the ‘star-studied’ NATO and EU families. Within our own boundaries, we have a multi-brunch constitutional government, including legislature, a cabinet of ministers and the judiciary; fortified by the densely populated law enforcement and a penitentiary realm. Deuce! I almost forgot: we have the army, one of the costliest and most question-marked elements of our statehood. The lawmakers pass laws, the government executes said laws and the courts interpret them. So the process that makes us a State is very active at that. The national currency regulates financial transactions; commercial trade is

very much on the up, and banks are operating as they should. Democracy is being honed and personal freedom fluctuates up and down. Having all those attributes in place, there is still something missing in the Republic of Georgia. What could that be? First and foremost, the State has no idea what precise direction it is headed for in the drastically divided modern world that humankind is faced with today. The little State of Georgia is squeezed in between morbid geopolitical tentacles created by the powers that be, who vehemently enjoy the way we are wriggling to free ourselves from a painful, suffocating reality. Masochistically playing with Russian geopolitical sadism, and meanwhile looking with tearful eyes at the glibly loquacious didactic West; the Georgian State is at a complete loss, not having a clue what might happen tomorrow. This country has never heard this much political commentary, which, actually, makes no sense at all concerning the rotten geopolitical quagmire that we have found ourselves in as a result of absolute absence of historical wisdom that we should have learnt from over the centuries.

There is not a single shoulder we can put the blame on except our own. We need our land back from the fiendishly celebrating Russia, gloating at our misfortune. We need to, but we can’t! This is a mindboggling geopolitical dead-end, where the nation is trembling with fear, cold, misery and with a bursting heart. The situation concerns all of us p e r s o n a l ly the same w a y. A sense of national happiness is gone! And there is no way to have the Russian bear keep its mort a l ly s h a r p

claws of off our fragile Georgian body. The world is watching this prolonged political show and is looking at us with sagging impotent hands and stranded minds. The world cannot do anything here! It is the Georgian state that should do something, but what? If it undertakes a sharp move, it will perish because the Russian power to keep Georgia frozen is immortal. If it does nothing, then it should not consider itself an independently functioning body that is capable of putting back together the historic national territory. An average Georgian patriot like myself would not even care who the Georgian state makes friends with, and what geopolitical orientation it chooses, be it Russia, the West or the Moon. For a regular Georgian patriot, the bottomline is to see Georgia’s peaceful survival, with its territories back and the

Georgian gene pool safe and sound forever, so that this nation is still in existence 500 hundred years from now and, even more so, that the unique Georgian language is still being spoken in the world and the letters are still being written in the amazing Georgian fonts. That’s it. Will America do that for us? Let them do it! Would Russia guarantee that cherished future? Why not? Is there an unknown third power that might give us a chance? Welcome any time! Let it come in and do the job! What’s happening meanwhile? Indigenous Georgians are spending days and nights in thoughts of relinquishing the country in search of a rusty little piece of bread, whereas their places are being taken over by foreign crowds, mostly from the orient, that would make for an easy survival in this wonderful land, turning Georgians into the minority in Georgia, slowly but steadily. This stinks. Has the Georgian state enough power to handle the stench? I wish it did!

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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 30 - APRIL 2, 2018

Non-Use of Force? OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

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he 43rd round of the Geneva International Discussions (GID) ended, the main participants of the talks being Georgia and Russia, who, unable to come to an agreement on adopting the non-use of force, also failed to reach an agreement as to who would sign the document: Russia, Georgia or the de-facto leaders of the occupied territories. This has been the subject of debate for 10 years now. Following the famous statement made on March 9 by Prime Minister Kvirikashvili, both Moscow and Tbilisi might have thought that Official Tbilisi would finally agree to the precedent of seeing the separatists’ signatures on one of the international documents. However, the expectations did not meet reality for either of the two counties. For a long time now, Moscow has been trying to make this happen; to see the signatures of the leaders of the occupied territories on any official international document. So far, the attempts have proven futile. But for the Kremlin, the foremost goal is not the signatures, but the fact that an official document can exist where Tbilisi will refuse to restore the territorial integrity of Georgia by force. Since the August War of 2008, the international community has been trying to encourage Georgia and Russia to sign such an agreement, but this has always brought a smile to the faces of those in Moscow who have consistently advised Tbilisi to get used to the new reality; repeatedly recommending they recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and sign the non-force agreement directly with the two “countries.” So, what happened with the Georgian government after Kvirikashvili’s statement? This is unclear not only to Moscow, but to the circle of political experts in Georgia. It is truly difficult to explain how is it possible that the leader of the Georgian government talks about proximity and a dialogue between Russia and Georgia, and at the same time, the main legislative body of the country adopts a Magnitsky Act-type of document called Tatunashvili-Otkho-

zoria. What is happening within the Georgian Dream? Karasin himself said that in Tbilisi they have to finally decide what kind of people they want to be: flexible, radical or consistent. Everything was much clearer earlier, with US Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly supporting Kvirikashvili’s initiative of starting direct dialogue with Russia about Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Current Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, also supported the idea, as did the Ambassador of France to Georgia, who said he was looking forward to steps from Russian side in response to this gesture from the Georgian government. And, in light of such international feedback, Georgian Parliament adopted a resolution which poured cold water not only on the hopes of the international actors, but on the Premier’s statement as well. Head of Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze noted of the resolution that the government is not planning to cross the red line when using pragmatic policies with Russia. This statement from Kobakhidze implied that with his statement, Kvirikashvili had crossed those red lines. The resolution adopted in Parliament can be interpreted as a sort of warning and a hint that there no longer exists a place for the PM in politics. Clearly, the voting on the resolution suggested the same, as even his parliamentary team supported adopting it. Expert Khatuna Lagazidze thinks that there is no such thing as a “Kvirikashvili group” within the parliamentary majority and that it has been replaced by other groups: “The resolution revealed that the case might be connected with the roots of the governmental coalition post-2020 Parliamentary elections, which could be represented with the teams of the current Major of Tbilisi, Kaladze, the Minister of Finance, Bakhtadze, the Minister of Interior Affairs and the former Major of Tbilisi, Gigi Ugulava.” Indeed, the position of PM Kvirikashvili has been shattered after the swearing incident, proven once again by this resolution. The common laws of mathematics do not work in politics, and especially those of Georgia, hence, 2 + 2 does not always equal 4.

MEP Austrevicius: We Must Commit to Working through the Complications Continued from page 4

THERE WAS A PETITION FROM A COLLEAGUE OF MINE THAT WE CHANGE THE NAME OF THE SO CALLED ‘MOSCOW DISTRICT’ OF TBILISI TO THE TATUNASHVILI DISTRICT. HAS ANYTHING LIKE THIS HAPPENED IN LITHUANIA? HOW WOULD LITHUANIANS REACT?

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Well, we have renamed streets at the right time, where there are historical names which should be brought back. Justice and historical justice should be remembered. We’ve all been through uneasy times of renaming, removing and so on. I personally asked the Georgian foreign minister in 2008 or 2009 to remove the statue of Stalin in Gori. Then it was taken well, though it may have provoked a national outcry and tensions, but it was done. I’m sure in most cases, Georgians are very rational people; they know their history and recognize their heroes. To name a village or street after Tatunashvili would be normal to commemorate his deeds and his personality. Whether it replaces the name ‘Moscow’ or not is for the Georgians to decide. I think each and every nation should remember its heroes and pray for all heroes, but not for heroes imposed on them by foreign countries.

ON TO THE RUSSIAN ELECTIONS. IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF PUTIN’S REGIME? AS BOTH THE KREMLIN AND PUTIN LOOK FOR A SUCCESSOR, WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT? We should find the right name for those procedures we saw on March 18. I think Mr. Putin returned to power and prolonged his tenure not just for fun: he has a strategy. He didn’t come for formal reasons. He has a strategy for Russia and he wants to be a leader of Russians for six more years. Will it

be the last term for him? Let’s not be so optimistic and naïve. I don’t believe he plans to leave too early. I think his narrative is even more hardline now, that he came with even more nationalistic rhetoric on the day of the occupation of Crimea, was clearly no coincidence. His mention of weapons is a frightening scenario for our cooperation. I think we, the West, have to be serious, not frightened and give up the sanctions too early. We know why the sanctions were imposed. It’s not because of us, not because we made mistakes; we have to react to the policy line of the Russian Federation. That’s why I hope we will be rational enough, open minded, and not be early in removing sanctions because we believe that Mr. Putin in the fourth term of his leadership will have different shoes.

YOU MENTIONED PUTIN HAS A STRATEGY. WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS STRATEGY SPELLS FOR EASTERN PARTNERSHIP COUNTRIES? I don’t see any sign that Mr. Putin has given up the fight for the neighborhood and this is his strong red line: he doesn’t want Georgia, Ukraine and especially Moldova to succeed and set a bad example of him. Russia is going through reforms and changing for the better and people understand fear of government. I don’t think the fight is over; let’s not be so naïve. Georgia made a major step forward, started comprehensive reforms which are ongoing now, and the future might be sometimes complicated because reforms will involve a lot of political debate and uncertainty. What I’m looking at is the whole package of political reforms; if people are given more power, are treated as they should be- as equals, as citizens who are given the chance to really decide on future coalitions and leading politicians, then it will surely distance you from authoritarianism.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 30 - APRIL 2, 2018

MEP Gomes on the Tatunashvili Case MAGNITSKY LIST, CALLED THE OTKHOZORIA-TATUNASHVILI LIST, ABOUT THE TWO MURDERS THAT TOOK PLACE IN THE BREAKAWAY REGIONS. IT INVOKES SANCTIONS AGAINST THE PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE KILLINGS. SHOULD WE EXPECT EUROPEAN BODIES, MEMBER STATES, AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS TO ADOPT THE SAME STANCE AND SHOW SOLIDARITY TO GEORGIA BY IMPOSING THE SAME SANCTIONS ON THOSE PEOPLE? WOULD THAT BE A GOOD STEP?

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE

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he tragic events surrounding Archil Tatunashvili caused outrage not only in Georgia, but well beyond it – with the West calling for thorough investigation of the incident. Ana Gomes was one of many European Parliament members unable to hide their indignation whilst discussing the matter with GEORGIA TODAY.

IT TOOK 26 DAYS FOR THE DE FACTO "SOUTH OSSETIAN" GOVERNMENT TO TRANSFER ARCHIL'S BODY TO THE GEORGIAN SIDE OF

THE BOUNDARY LINE, AND THERE ARE VERY CLEAR SIGNS OF VIOLENCE ON HIS CORPSE. WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ASSESSMENT? I expressed my concerns when it was announced that this Georgian citizen, Mr. Tatunashvili, had died at the hands of his captors. The de facto government in occupied South Ossetia are the occupiers, the Russians themselves. It’s really very disheartening to learn that only 26 days later was the country and the family able to recover his body. I know it was a very difficult situation for everyone in Georgia. The public was extremely outraged and I want to stress that the government was doing their best to recover his body. But it also shows the pattern that we’ve been seeing lately - ever more daring and aggressive actions on the part of Russia. It’s Rus-

sia that is behind whoever is [officially] in control of South Ossetia. I want to express my full solidarity with the family and all the people of Georgia who are alarmed and outraged by this incident. We’ll have the visit of the Security Defense Subcommittee delegation to Georgia very soon. I hope this will be an opportunity for European Parliament to give an updated approach to what is happening in Georgia and how this is not just affecting Georgia but also us - we care for Georgia, we remain in solidarity with Georgia, we do not accept these provocative actions by the Russian state which is occupying South Ossetia and Abkhazia. I think this is the time when the friends of Georgia must come together.

THE GOVERNMENT AND THE OPPOSITION ADOPTED A RESOLUTION, SIMILAR TO THE

Absolutely. Back in 2013, in the report about the need to fight corruption and to link it with human rights violations, I advocated that the EU should adopt an overall Magnitsky Act to implement sanctions, targeted sanctions, on individuals responsible for basic violations of human rights such as in the case of Sergey Magnitsky or in the case of Mr. Tatunashvili. Of course, we are now actually seeing this; more and more people in the EU are also pressing for such targeted sanctions, sanctions that really hurt. And we see now for instance in Britain, because of the case of Mr. Skripal and his daughter, that Britain is seriously considering implementing targeted sanctions, freezing assets and so on. Of course, in the Skripal case, it will have to go up the hierarchy to Mr. Putin because whatever happened there could not have happened without a green light from the top. It would be healthy for Georgia to take that same route. I'm quite heartened to see that the government and the main opposition were able to agree on it. I hope Georgia will have the strength to enact that selectively towards the people it knows are directly involved in this murder and other cases, because we hear

that there are other cases too. Yes, Georgia is fully entitled to demand cooperation from Europe and I stand ready to support it politically with European governments and European institutions. Often, we see that the people involved in major human rights violations at all levels invest the proceeds of their current activities in European countries. So, often, implementing your Magnitsky-type sanctions may not just require great action taken in Georgia, but very likely in European countries too, where these people have their assets invested. So, yes, I believe it’s very important and it will be quite meaningful for all of us if Georgia takes that stand.

THERE WAS A PETITION FROM A COLLEAGUE OF MINE, A FELLOW GEORGIAN JOURNALIST, THAT MOSCOW DISTRICT IN TBILISI SHOULD BE RENAMED 'TATUNASHVILI DISTRICT.' THERE ARE SOME WHO SUPPORT ITS SYMBOLISM AND THOSE WHO SAY IT MIGHT PROVOKE RUSSIA. WHAT DO YOU THINK? I can't really take a stance on this – this is something that Georgians themselves should decide on. But I can tell you that there will be many ways in which the Georgian people will have to express their outrage of Russia’s involvement in the murder of Tatunashvili. I understand those who want that reaction to be shown even in symbolic actions like this. I also understand those who say we should not be provocative. Actually, it’s not about being provocative, it’s about reacting. But once again, it’s up for Georgians to decide what the best reaction is. The article was prepared in the scope of “Messages from Brussels” series, a project by European Alliance for Georgia, a Brusselsbased advocacy organization dedicated to “Bringing more Georgia into Europe.”

Georgia Supports UK, Expels Russian Diplomat BY TOM DAY

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eorgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in a statement on Thursday that they will be expelling one member of staff from the Russian Federation Interests Section at the Embassy of Switzerland in Tbilisi, giving this person one week to leave. “…A member of staff of the Russian Federation Interests Section at the Embassy of Switzerland in Tbilisi is requested to leave Georgia within 7 days.” The statement goes on to express Georgia’s solidarity with the UK. “The Ministry expresses solidarity with the United Kingdom, sharing the position of the United Kingdom as well as of the international community.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns the use of chemical weapons on the territory of the United Kingdom

Included is also Georgia’s condemnation of the alleged actions by the Russian Federation. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns the use of chemical weapons on the territory of the United Kingdom that caused the grave human suffering of three individuals and posed a serious threat to the lives and health of others. This represents aserious challenge to common security.” Since the poisoning of Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia on March 4 in Salisbury, UK, this makes a total of 104 expelled Russian diplomats around the world. It is believed to be the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers ever. Countries to have expelled diplomats so far are the UK (23); US (60); France (4); Germany (4); Poland (4); Czech Republic (3); Lithuania (3); Denmark (2); Netherlands (2); Italy (2); Spain (2); Estonia (1); Croatia (1); Finland (1); Hungary (1); Latvia (1); Romania (1); Sweden (1); Ukraine (13); Canada (4); Albania (2); Norway (1); and now Georgia (1). On the afternoon of March 4 in Salisbury, UK, Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found unconscious on a bench next to a shopping mall. They were moved to hospital where they are still fighting for their lives. Sergei Skripal is a former Russian Colonel who was convicted by Moscow of spying for the UK. His family told reporters that he believed the Russian Secret Service might come after him at any time. Mr. Skripal’s wife, brother and son have died, some under suspicious circumstances, over the past two years.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson did not place blame on any parties but said that Russia was “a malign and disruptive force.” He added that the UK would respond “robustly” if any evidence of Russian involvement was found. Russia denied involvement and said that it had “no information” about what could have caused the incident, and that they were open to working with British police if required. The Russian Embassy in London said “media reports create an impression of a planned operation by the Russian special services, which is completely untrue.” Just eight days later, Nikolai Glushkov, 68, who was associated with a leading critic of Vladamir Putin, was found dead

in London. Police said his death was “unexplained.” On March 17, Police launched a murder investigation after the autopsy concluded he died from compression to the neck, suggesting he could have been killed by hand. They added that “detectives are keeping an open mind and are appealing for any information that will assist the investigation.” The Prime Minister of the UK, Theresa May, said that “either this was a direct action by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”

Spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said May's statement was “an unprecedentedly crude provocation.” She added it was “categorically unacceptable and unworthy” and that the UK government had “seriously aggravated” relations by announcing a “whole set of hostile measures.” Russia has also accused the UK of breaching the chemical weapons convention by refusing to supply a sample of the nerve agent used against Skripal. Zakharova called the UK “fully-fledged liars." She added that it has no idea about professionalism or diplomacy, and that Russia would take “fitting... symmetrical measures that are completely appropriate for the situation.”


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Russian Policy in the South Caucasus: Nexus of Appeasement & Coercion OP-ED BY BENYAMIN POGHOSYAN

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he South Caucasus, as a part of the post-soviet space, is included in Russia’s selfdeclared zone of special interests. Russia has always faced challenges to perceive the newly independent post-soviet republics, with the exception of the Baltic States, as truly sovereign states. This was especially the case regarding their right to implement independent foreign and security policy. That is why Moscow becomes agitated by even the discussions of former soviet republics’ possible membership in the EU or NATO. A growing discontent with the post-Cold War era, international order and alleged Western attempts to weaken Russia’s positions in its immediate neighborhood have resulted in Moscow’s persistent efforts to institutionalize its influence within the post-soviet space. The establishment of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Customs Union and later the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) are key steps within the well-articulated Russian strategy towards that goal. The Ukraine crisis and followed strategic rift with the Euro-Atlantic community have deepened the Russian perception of it being a fortress under the siege. In this context, the role of the post-soviet space as a buffer against the Western encroachment into Russia proper becomes vital in securing Russian long-term strategic interests. Given the results of the March 18 presidential elections, at least in the

Yerevan seeks to maintain partner relations with Euro-Atlantic community, perceiving it as a source for the financial and technical assistance needed to modernize the state

coming six years, Russia will double down efforts to strengthen its role and influence within the perimeter of its immediate neighborhood. Given the growing calls within the US, NATO and EU elites of the necessity to implement a policy of containment against Russia, the post-soviet space has all chances of becoming the hot spot for a Russia-West competition. In this context, the South Caucasus represents an interesting case. Armenia is fully anchored within the Russian sphere of influence and is a member of both the CSTO and EAEU. However, Yerevan seeks to maintain partner relations with EuroAtlantic community, perceiving it as a source for the financial and technical assistance needed to modernize the state. Georgia is pursuing a policy of EuroAtlantic integration and, since the 2008 war and recognition of Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence by Russia, there are few chances for improvements in bilateral relations. Meanwhile, Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration has probably reached its limits by the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU. Few believe in Georgia’s membership of EU or NATO in the foreseeable future. Simultaneously, after the 2012 “change of command” in Georgia, Tbilisi and Moscow have implemented some steps to improve economic relations. Azerbaijan, relying on its oil and gas resources, is seeking to keep a balance between Russia and the West. Baku has rejected the EU offer to sign an Association Agreement and yet is not in a rush to enter either the CSTO or EAEU. One consistent feature of the Russian policy in the South Caucasus is the efficient combination of appeasement and coercion. In the case of Armenia, Russia effectively uses the CSTO mechanisms to supply Russian weapons to Armenia at a reduced price. The Russian military

In its relations with Georgia, Moscow seeks to foster economic relations and deepen Russian involvement in the Georgian economy as a way to get leverage base deployed in Gyumri serves as a tool of containment against possible Turkish direct military involvement in the Karabakh conflict. The hundreds of thousand Armenian migrants currently work in Russia and their remittances play a key role in fostering the Armenian economy. Simultaneously, Moscow does not shy away from putting pressure on Armenia using the Karabakh conflict if Armenia looks to be drifting closer to the West. The 2013 Armenian decision to join the Customs Union and later Eurasian Economic Union after finalizing negotiations on the Association Agreement with the EU is a stark example of that policy. In its relations with Georgia, Moscow seeks to foster economic relations and deepen Russian involvement in the Geor-

gian economy as a way to get leverage on Georgia. The decision to open Russian markets for Georgian wine and other agricultural products is a step within that strategy. The expert level discussions on the possibility of creating in Georgia some form of confederation which will allow the return of Abkhazia and South Ossetia if Georgia joins the Eurasian Economic Union is another move within that appeasement strategy. The recent NDI poll results, according to which some 30% of the Georgian population wants to see Georgia entering the EAEU, is proof that the Russian policy has some impact. Simultaneously, Russia was actively using the policy of expansion of the South Ossetia territory by moving boundary fences deeper into Georgia as a tool of coercion and an attempt to negatively influence the Georgian policy of Euro-Atlantic integration. The Russian message to Georgia was clear: ‘Your partners and allies in the West have zero influence on the ground and can’t protect you from further territorial losses. Meanwhile, you may choose to be a friend of Russia and in that case at least there are chances to solve your most pressing security issues.’ Russia is playing the same game with Azerbaijan. Moscow has provided multibillion dollars modern assault weaponry to Baku, raising hopes in Azerbaijan of reaching a substantial shift in the balance of power with Armenia and thus gaining the upper hand in negotiations. Russia is also actively promoting economic cooperation with Azerbaijan both in bilateral and multilateral formats. Russia – Iran – Azerbaijan trilateral summits held in August 2016 in Baku and in November 2017 in Tehran have fostered Azerbaijan’s transit role as a key player in North – South transport corridor which will link India with Europe, passing through Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia.

Call for Applications for 2018 EaP Civil Society Fellowship Program

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he EaP Civil Society Fellowship has opened a call for applications for a program which supports young civil society leaders in the Eastern Partnership countries. The 2018 EaP Civil Society Fellowships program aims at identifying young, ambitious and forward-thinking civil society activists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine and supporting the

development of their leadership skills. Applications are open to all interested individuals who match the eligibility criteria outlined in the application guidelines and who apply before 9 April 2018. Selected Fellows will receive up to 5,000 EUR to implement their ideas that will result in positive changes in their community life and increase their leadership capacities. Each year, 20 talented fellows are selected within the EaP Civil Society

Fellowship Program. This Program is an EU investment in the development of young civic activists or civically minded individuals from the EaP region, who display interest and ability in taking leading roles in the development of their societies. Detailed information about the 2018 Call and the application procedures are available on their website: http://fellowships.eapcivilsociety.eu

Simultaneously, Russia seeks to exploit the Karabakh conflict as leverage against Azerbaijan, attempting to influence its foreign and security policy, including discussions on possible Azerbaijani membership in the EAEU. Russia sometimes uses Moscow-based Azerbaijani billionaires as a tool to put covert pressure on Azerbaijani leadership, hinting at possible active involvement in Azerbaijani domestic policy. Thus, in the upcoming six years, the key feature of Russian policy in the South Caucasus would be consistent efforts to further institutionalize its influence. Russia will seek to maintain the status quo in Russia-Armenia relations while simultaneously trying to pull both Azerbaijan and Georgia closer to the EAEU. Another key task for Russia would be to reduce the Western influence in the region. In this context, the emerging Russia – Turkey – Iran alliance may well support the implementation of Moscow’s grand design. Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan is the Executive Director of the Political Science Association of Armenia. @benyamin_poghos

Russia is also actively promoting economic cooperation with Azerbaijan both in bilateral and multilateral formats


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Will Mobile & Internet Tariffs Be Raised? BY NONA KHELAIA (INFO 9)

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he new owner of Geocell, Silknet, has said it will invest 500 million GEL in the development of the united company. The sum will be used to create new products and to improve the service quality. At the same time, the management of the company notes that they have entered a “very competitive environment.” Director of Silknet, Davit Mamulashvili, says that customers will be offered new products within the next 2-3 months and will feel “a great improvement.” "Our customers will get new services in the near future, such as a fixed and mobile network, and we are conducting negotiations with the Internet Provider ITAL Telecom to enter the market, and we hope is that our cooperation will be successful,” Mamulashvili said. Silknet buying Geocell was the most expensive ($153 million) transaction on the communications market in Georgia. Experts in this field believe that following this deal, the Geocell and Magti leadership, as the two main players on the market, will be strengthened and Beeline will find itself in uncompetitive conditions.

WHAT WAS THE PRECAUSE OF SILKNET PURCHASING GEOCELL? MagtiCom bought Caucasus Online assets and became a consolidated com-

pany, together with fixed and mobile assets. Caucasus was followed by small internet providers DeltaCom, DeltaNet, Anet and G-NETI. With this acquisition, Magti became the largest company on the internet market. After such redistribution, Geocell appeared to be in a noncompetitive position and it could be said that Silknet buying it was the best solution to the situation. Geocell, with Silknet and Magti, will offer a combined service to Caucasus Online and other internet companies’ customers: users will be able to receive internet, cable television, mobile and fixed telephone services in a single package. Beeline cannot offer such a service.

WHAT WILL CHANGE ON THE MARKET AND WHAT WILL THE PRICE OF MOBILE OR INTERNET SERVICES BE? Executive Director of Small and Medium Telecom Operators Association Ucha Seethi believes that users will have the opportunity to receive full mobile internet services at a relatively low price. During the medium term, the processes can be developed with two possible scenarios: First, Geocell and Magti might put arranged tariffs on services, which may lead to a rise in service costs, or Magti, which has more financial resources, will win the fight and will dominate the market. Field specialists have difficulty making more long-term predictions. However, they say that most of the market will fall into the hands of the two big companies. Koba Bekauri, chairman of the Com-

munications Commission, has called on Mobitel “to strengthen and consolidate fixed assets as soon as possible to become a full-fledged third competitive company.”

WHAT WILL BEELINE DO? Public Relations Department of Veon Georgia (Beeline) states: "Kakha Bekauri's statement, where he calls for Mobitel to enter the fixed market - internet, telephony and television, is pretty much acceptable. We are an increasingly dynamic company that is developing very dynamically and cares for novelty. Naturally, it is important to enter a fixed market: there is a valuable offer on the market, after which assessment and corresponding calculations can be made.” However, experts believe that Beeline will not be able to face the two giants. In early 2018, Georgia’s mobile network had 5,132 million subscribers. 38.6% of them are involved in Magti's network; 34.7% Geocell and Beeline just 26%. Mobitel Ltd. was registered in Georgia on November 19, 2003. Its owner was Levan Varshalomidze, who was the Chairman of the Government of Adjara in 2004-2012. On February 3, 2004, Varshalomidze gave 100% share and his position as Director to Kakhaber Damenia. Damenia sold his share to businessman Nodar Gigineishvili 20 days later. Offshore companies have emerged since

2006. The share of Nodar Gigineishvili was purchased in 2005 by Delgado Resources and Watertrail Industies. Gigineishvili's business partner Levan Karamanishvili pointed out that both were representatives of the company. On July 12, 2006, Mobitel supervisor Watertrail Industies entered the Russian Vimpelcom: Russian citizens Sergei Avdev, Elena Shmatova and Vladimir Ryabokon of Ukraine, and the Delgado Resources Council representatives with Levan Karamanishvili and Russian citizen Revaz Sharangia. Kakha Bendukidze opposed selling the frequency to Beeline. The state minister then saw incompetence in the action of the Commission and, moreover, saw signs of corruption. Bendukidze protested that the GNCC had sold one license for cellular communication to MagtiCom for 26 million GEL and the second license was handed over to 239 thousand GEL to MegaCom, which caused a loss of $ 27 million for the Communications Regulatory Authority. According to press back then, Bendukidze protested the fact that confiscated frequency of Magti and Geocell was given to Beeline instead (Sharangia obtained the frequency from the Commission for 9 million GEL). The former Chairman of the Commission, Dimitri Kitoshvili, who denounced Bendukidze's allegations, claimed that the state was not in loss, but the budget

received more than 27 million revenue by selling the frequency. 43% of shares of Beeline, currently owned by Vimpelcom, belongs to the Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor. 47.9% belongs to Alfa Group's Altimo consortium owned by Russian oligarch Mikhail Friedman. Friedman owns 90.1% of Alpha Bank shares and VimpelCom 56.2%. He has more than $5 billion invested in foreign companies, which is a record for Russia. According to Forbes, 2014, Friedman was second among the richest Russian businessmen. He was named as number one businessman in Russia in 2017. Currently, his property is estimated at $14.6 billion. By 2015, the Mobitel Supervisory Board included Russian citizens Ilia Chulukin, Dmitry Kromsky and Zauresh Lisitsina, and Georgian citizens Teimuraz Aronia and Khvicha Makatsaria. Makatsaria appeared in the Supervisory Board in 2013. Given the owner's finances, Beeline might use all its resources to strengthen its company in Georgia. However, experts do not exclude the fact the owner will not be putting any additional effort into the business because Georgia’s financially low market can be less attractive to Mobitel. It will be interesting to see how the processes of communication will develop in future.

Don’t Miss Georgia’s First Ever Real Estate Exhibition-Sale ‘Area Expo 2018’! BY NIA PATARAIA

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or the first time in Georgia, on March 31 and April 1, the Expo Georgia exhibition space will host the exhibition and sale of real estate – ‘Area Expo 2018.’ All interested parties will have the opportunity to visit the exhibition to discover the latest Georgian developers' submissions, current and completed projects, and buy on-site if they wish. The Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development will take part in the LEPL State Property National Agency, which will present the project "50 properties for your hotel" and show commercially interesting property owned by the State. For three days, developers will be offering special prices, while bank's representatives will provide access to their own products. Companies like Krtsanisi Residence and Simetria will be presented at the exhibition. In an interview with GEORGIA TODAY, one of the representatives of Krtsanisi Residence mentioned that for the real estate company, the Expo provides “a very interesting platform.” “Area Expo 2018 offers a great opportunity for foreign and local clients to explore, discover and purchase real estate. Many foreigners will attend the exhibition, especially from Iran. Our company will have its own brochure which will play a technical-passport role. All the details about the construction will be described and we will have renders for clients to get a visual picture of

projects. Krtsanisi Residence will have a special sales offer exclusively for this exhibition. People should come along to Area Expo to find out more.” A representative of Simetria told us of the potential of expanding a company’s knowledge of the local and international market. “In the framework of the exhibition, the possibility of finding a client is very high. It’s hard for people to get detailed information about projects and real estate in general. So, at Area Expo 2018, we hope to attract a special segment which is oriented on purchasing the prod-

uct we are offering. Simetria will be presented as both housing and hotels.” The stands of home item brands will also be on show, and Marketer.ge is to organize a series of talks related to construction. The event is supported by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and Tbilisi City Hall. Buildings, real estate and developers' activities are the hot topic of recent years in the capital city of Georgia, as well as abroad. The number of construction projects has increased and consumers now have a diversity of choices accord-

ing to district, property type, architecture or conditions. The real estate sales of 2017 showed a significant increase on 2016.That's why ‘Area Expo 2018’ is putting together Georgian developers in a single space, allowing consumers to make purchases under the best conditions within the event. This kind of event is extremely popular abroad but it is being held for the first time in Georgia: the largest event in the real estate direction in Georgia. Potential customers will be able to visit one or more of the existing projects in

Georgia, and select and purchase an apartment, office, or commercial area based on region, district, architecture, special conditions and price. The sponsor of ‘Area Expo 2018’ is the real estate service company Area Group, which aims to introduce international practice and standards to the real estate market in Georgia. Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Dimitry Kumsishvili and Tbilisi Mayor Kakhi Kaladze opened the event on March 30. The event will run until April 1.


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Gas War with Ukraine at the Expense of the Population Foreign Experts to Check All Cableways in Georgia’s Ski Resorts BY THEA MORRISON

Protests in Kyiv

BY DMITRI DOLABERIDZE

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he decision of Gazprom to launch a new round of gas wars with Ukraine and break all contracts with Naftogaz creates a “fundamental risk” for the Russian company in its key European market, warns the international rating agency S & P. The demarche of Gazprom again gives customers “doubts about the reliability of supplies” from Russia and “reduces the attractiveness of Gazprom's pipeline gas in comparison with LNG, other fuels or alternative gas supplies through pipelines,” the agency's survey said on Monday. This will not only hit the market share of Gazprom, but will “affect the deci-

sions of regulators regarding Gazprom's planned alternative routes,” including the Turkish Stream and Nord Stream 2, the agency added. Europe is worried about the fate of the transit contract. Last year, more than 90 billion cubic meters of gas, or about half of all deliveries to the EU, passed through Ukraine to the European Union, says Mikhail Korchemkin, Director of East European Gas Analysis. Breaking off relations “will increase Europe's distrust of the reliability of gas supplies from Russia." The reputation of the Nord Stream was already dampened by the winter of 2014-15, when Gazprom cut its pumping, in an attempt to undermine the resource base of the Ukrainian reverse,” he adds. “The contract with Kyiv is valid until 2019, and the absence of agreements beyond this time makes the Europeans

nervous about the fact that even if Nord Stream 2 and the Turkish Stream are launched, transit through the Ukrainian route will be closed without loss of volumes, which Gazprom will not be able to do,” explains S & P analyst, Alexander Gryaznov. “If such decision is made, it will likely lead to a decrease in export earnings and, as a result, a fall in budget revenues,” warns Head of the Alpari Analytical Department, Alexander Razuvaev, adding that “in addition to taxes and export duties, the state will not receive dividends.” Eventually, people will have to pay for the gas war in order to compensate the financial losses. Gazprom can lobby for a rise in tariffs within Russia, but, as Razuvaev said: “this will negatively affect the pace of economic growth and is unlikely to please the average Russian.”

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ustrian ski-lift producer Doppelmayr Garaventa Group, is to check all cableways in Georgia’s ski resorts following the March 16 accident in Georgia’s popular ski resort Gudauri, which left 11 people injured. The information was released after the meeting of Georgia’s First Vice-Premier and the Minister of Economy, Dimitry Kumsishvili, and Valery Yashin, representative of Doppelmayr, a company which installed ski-lifts in Gudauri and another ski resorts - Bakuriani, Hatsvali and Goderdzi. Moreover, the company will re-train all the employees working at ski resorts of Georgia as the experts assessed the accident in Gudauri happened due to the mistake of an operator. In the process of retraining, which implies appropriate actions in extreme situations, a special simulator will be used, brought by Doppelmayr. It was also noted that, along with the re-training of the existing staff, new staff should also be prepared, which will be

involved in the certification process. All persons who undergo training will be given the relevant certificates. The sides also agreed that international practice, based on the experience of recognized companies in the world, will be shared with Georgia, which envisages carrying out of regular inspections of the ropeways. At the invitation of the Georgian side, in April, the company Leitner will also come to Georgia to check the ropes installed in Bakuriani and Mestia and they will also re-train their staff. Poma representatives will also come and check the ropeways installed by their company in Gudauri and Mestia. All of the people injured in Gudauri accident have already been discharged from hospital. None received life threatening wounds in the incident. The Ministry of Internal Affairs launched an investigation into the case of Gudauri in accordance with Article 275 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which implies violation of the safety or operation of the railway, water, air or cable traffic movement. The Georgian government has invited all affected tourists to Gudauri next year for free.

A Pipe to Nowhere: Gazprom to Start Dismantling Turkish Stream Pipeline BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE

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azprom has lost hope of turning the Turkish Stream project into a gas pipeline for large-scale export to Europe. The Russian gas holding company is preparing to begin dismantling the South Gas Corridor pipelines, which were initially built with the expectation of South Stream, and then redirected to Turkey. This was, according to the plan, supposed to supply 63 billion cubic meters of gas per year to Turkey and the EU. However, the framework agreement with Ankara could be concluded with just two threads of “flow” instead of four. Because of the twofold reduction in the capacity of the Turkish flow, Gazprom did not need 506 kilometers of pipes laid along the route Pochinki-Anapa, from the Saratov region to the Krasnodar territory. These are subject to liquidation together with the gas meas-

uring station Morshanskaya. The construction of the third and fourth lines of Russian compressor stations Kazachya and Korenovskaya will be suspended until “a decision is made on the implementation of these facilities,” said Gazprom. The total value of the facilities that were prepared for the South Stream, based on the balance sheet of Gazprom as an unfinished construction, at the beginning of 2017 was estimated at 46 billion Roubles. At the moment, Gazprom continues to lay its two threads of the Turkish Stream on the bottom of the Black Sea with a total capacity of 31 billion cubic meters. However, Turkey agreed only to pave one thread of “flow” on its territory for 15.75 billion cubic meters per year, through which gas will be supplied for its own needs. The second branch, which Gazprom hoped to use for transit to Europe and which has already been laid over almost a thousand kilometers of the Black Sea basin, Ankara allowed only to its coastline. The likelihood that the second thread

of the flow will remain a pipe to nowhere grows: there is a feeling that in Moscow “they began with a bit more skepticism” to refer to the prospect of its launch in

the near future, said Fitch analyst Dmitry Marinchenko. Without permits from Turkey, no exact route can be formed: it is not clear who

the owner and operator of the pipeline will be, nor whether Turkey will claim payments from gas transit and to what extent, Marinchenko noted.


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Jewel Casino in the Pearl of the Caucasus

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he moment you arrive at the “pearl of the Caucasus,” Tbilisi, you will be met with world-renowned hospitality and a marvelous mixture of Asian and European cultures, along with unique architecture. There are plenty of sites to visit throughout the city, but the primary destination is Shota Rustaveli Avenue, which is packed with historical monuments, trendy shops, restaurants and is the best place for an eventful stroll. While you are there seeking pure

spectacle, be sure to visit Casino Jewel at The Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi. The building is the new trademark image of Tbilisi, a fusion of modern architecture combined with a sophisticated classical structure. The 31-floor building has a hotel rooftop with stunning panoramic views of the oldest parts of the capital. Casino Jewel offers the most significant playing area and variety of games in Tbilisi. It is a paradise for every gambler and anyone seeking entertainment during their stay in the city. With 26 table games, including BlackJack, Punto-

Banco, American Roulette, SicBo, War (exclusively available at Casino Jewel), etc., Casino Jewel is the premier destination for players seeking an authentic gambling experience. The slot room is equipped with the most advanced and popular slot machines for every taste. Casino Jewel prides itself on being able to offer an opulent Poker Room with multiple cash game tables and weekly tournaments, in addition which a dedicated VIP Saloon is hosted on two upper floors, providing a private gambling environment for guests.

Gov’t to Tighten Punishment for Covering Up Crime, Giving False Testimony The current legislation envisages the same sanctions for all the above mentioned crimes. The ministry believes that punishments are not in line with the nature of crimes which makes it an ineffective to fight against said crimes. According to the current edition of the Criminal Code of Georgia, covering a crime envisages from 1 to 3 years in prison while not notifying authorities

BY THEA MORRISON

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nder the initiative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, punishment is to be tightened for covering a crime, not notifying the relevant authorities about a crime, refusing to give testimony or giving false testimony.

10 Galaktion Street

Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: info@peoplescafe.ge

about a crime- from 2 to 4 years imprisonment. The new initiative envisages separation of covering less grave, grave or especially grave crimes from each-other and implies different sanctions for each case. Sanctions will also increase for giving false testimony and refusal to give testimony. Punishment for these crimes will increase by two years.

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GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 30 - APRIL 2, 2018

The Endeavor to Improve the Life of Others: Paata Sabelashvili on Drugs & the LGBT Community have two countries that criminally punish LGBT people, namely Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Furthermore, we constantly attempt to provide and sustain sufficient resources for the fight against the outbreak. This is important and works only in conjunction with ensuring a quality of services, which would make them viable enough, even if they were not free to the community. On a regional level, we also realize that all the communities, be it gay and trans, drug users or sex workers, women, prisoners or migrants will find a common ground to fight together. We are putting together initiatives that envisage activists from across different fields to fighting hand in hand to amplify each other’s actions.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY BENJAMIN MUSIC

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oliticians, journalists, and civil society observers covering the theme of drug use, in conjunction with the LGBT community in Georgia, are very familiar with the ‘White Noise Movement,’ which stems from anti-drug legislations which put drug users for small offenses behind bars for years. For consuming only a small amount of marijuana, Paata Sabelashvili was thrown into jail back in 2009. Since 2006, when he began raising his voice against legal discrimination and abuse cases against the LGBT community, Sabelashvili has become one of the most famous activists on the scene. His endeavours to go beyond inhumane drug policies and include HIV epidemics and other problems relating to the LGBT community in Georgia and Eastern Europe. Working now from an office in Tallinn, he sat down to discuss with GEORGIA TODAY his future goals and the current situation of the LGBT community in Georgia.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN ESTONIA AT THE MOMENT? WHY DID YOU MOVE OUT OF TBILISI? I moved to Tallinn last year to join a regional organization which works for HIV/AIDS prevention among gay men and trans people in various regions of Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA). The organization is called the Eurasian Coalition on Male Health (ECOM), and covers more than 10 countries, including Georgia.

SO, WHY TALLINN AND WHY NOW? I started with LGBT activism in Georgia a dozen years ago in 2006. Then, in 2009, I was busted for weed when the police brutally raided the offices of the Inclusive Foundation, which was the name of the first LGBT NGO in Georgia. This is how I came across drug user rights activism. Last year, we, the civil rights activists,

Photo: Minusvirus

succeeded in putting the Parliamentary Healthcare Committee behind a new draft package to reform the punitive drug policies which Georgia is notorious for. At that point, I felt that this drug policy reform is irreversible and that it was only a matter of time to see fruition. What really worried me was the new study in Tbilisi and Batumi, conducted among men who have sex with men (MSM) - the public health term to conveniently avoid mentioning the term gay. According to the study results, 25% of gay men in Tbilisi and around 23% in Batumi were HIV positive. Initially, much lower rates were increasing twofold every 2-3 years. I still worked on the problems of drug policies, especially when I had to scale up essential services to stop an epidemic damaging to my community. This job proved pretty hard. When you talk to politicians in Georgia, they look at you like an outcast and the mere fact that you are able to come out, speak out and talk to them pretty much exhausts them, not even mentioning their understanding of me as a community activist. Therefore, I decided to move to work on a regional level and target the problem on a larger scale. Georgia is the first country in which an epidemic outbreak was recorded in such a magnitude due to the high levels of hom-

ophobia, ignorance, and fear. Other countries are to follow if we do not target the issue at a regional level. This was my long, yet logical path to where I am right now. In Georgia, there are quite a few outstanding activists, tackling this and other issues on the ground.

CAN YOU ELABORATE MORE ON THE ORGANIZATION YOU ARE WORKING FOR RIGHT NOW? I work for the Eurasian Coalition on Male Health (ECOM). We are based in Tallinn, Estonia, and cover more than 10 countries across the region. The region neglected appropriate HIV prevention, thus leading to an increased percentage of gay men and trans people having HIV, compared to the general population. In fact, gay men are 24 times and trans people 49 times more likely to live with HIV compared to the general average. We are now facing a situation in which we don’t have sufficient resources to effectively respond to the epidemic. Therefore, we work to find the best minds, both in the region and globally, to get them to pull on one string and work on the needs of the people, who were historically left behind. We understand that the key to successful prevention strategies lays in improving national legislation. For example, we still

HOW IS WHITE NOISE DOING AT THE MOMENT? WHAT ARE THE NEXT PROJECTS YOU WANT TO TACKLE? White Noise is reinventing itself as we speak. We - and by saying that, I mean that I still volunteer for WNM - are getting ready for the post-decriminalization period. We need to demonstrate readiness to play our unique role in making change happen. Change does not happen because of the government – it happens in our hearts. State services failed to provide its citizens with guidance and support. Instead, it opted for the path of oppression and war. We are also ready to go off the negotiating table to barricades. We are always ready for this. But, it is like having nuclear warheads, never really wanting to use them. We are also ready for massive disobedience acts; should government need this push from our side to finally reform the shameful and degrading policies.

HOW DO YOU ENGAGE IN ACTIVISM RIGHT NOW? WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN METHODS AND TOOLS TO DRAW ATTENTION TO THE ISSUES YOU ARE ADVOCATING? Activism is like an incurable chronic disease. You don’t have the option to decide to be sometimes in, but other times out. You either are an activist, or not. You cannot undo activism; you cannot leave aside information that urges you to act on it. I believe that every activist’s path, experience, lessons, victories, and failures are what shape the movements the most. My path has been very unique because I was a gay activist, who was put in jail because of drug related offences serving 5 years on probation. Initially, I started to work for harm reduction networks on issues like HIV, Hepatitis C, female users and similar topics, but eventually ended up in the totally horizontal grassroots voluntary movement White Noise. This was before I moved. After moving to work on a regional level, I came close to other things and different situations. I realized that we need to go beyond mere intersectionality between communities. The concept of intersectionality basically says that gay men can at the same time be drug users and sex workers, for example. But we need to realize that there is, in fact, one community, which is oppressed under different names and labels. We need to collect the cases of oppression for each community and transform them into a powerful joint liberation movement. In practice, this has already been done by joint actions and initiatives, but we need to spur their work. One additional reason for what makes White Noise a special organization is its true characteristic of a super-community, like a com-

munity of communities, which adds to each other’s endeavor for liberation.

WHAT DO YOU SEE THE LGBTQ MOVEMENT POLITICALLY MOVING TOWARDS IN GEORGIA? I remember interviewing Ulrika Lunacek, part of the European Parliament and member of the Austrian Green Party. She was describing her political career as a feminist lesbian activist to her mandate at the European Parliament. Back then, 10 years ago, it seemed impossible to imagine something similar happening in my native Georgia. However, last year, during local elections, we have seen the mainstream political party – Republican Party – openly endorsing the lesbian woman Nino Bolkvadze to run for local elections. I was very sceptical at the beginning. I feared that she would undergo very hostile encounters during her campaign, alongside with being pressurized and perhaps marginalized. But luckily enough, I was wrong. It was amazing to look at how strong and determined she was. So, this resemblance of Ulrike and Nino really made me think about how we underestimate our own power, our own jurisdictions.

DO YOU FEEL THE MOVEMENT IS GAINING STRENGTH OR HAS DECLINED IN IMPORTANCE OVER RECENT YEARS? Not only has the movement been growing constantly, but it has also set the trend for civil rights activism and activism in general in the country. Right now, based on my very personal and firm belief, the movement is the trendsetter. It sets the bar for new activism in Georgia. When we put together a rally gathering ten thousand people over night, such as the Birzha Mafia rally, political parties attacked us publicly accusing us of being part of the Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream enterprise. Thinking about it, it is actually funny, as I wish to have been part of it, as we would have been done by now. We have even been heavily criticized by movements of fellow activists. They are pushing for bringing the medicalization vs. criminalization argument to the forefront of the debate. The argument basically goes – if addiction is a mental disease, why the heck do you put us behind bars? However, I think these movements shouldn’t take this question so literally. I believe it to be rather rhetorical. What if I do not really feel sick? Does it make me a bad drug user? It sounds like I should be dying to live up to society’s expectations. We think these arguments are sickening and not winning or convincing. On the contrary, the positive messages that White Noise has put out try to show to the public that there is only one solution to reconcile the relationship between drug users and the wider public. The more authorities and the general public hunt us down, the more harmful drugs we consume to compensate for this constant fear and persecution, thus eventually leading to more severe consequences. We try to show to people that we care. We care for each other. We do more than the police can do or should do.

FINALLY, DO YOU FEEL SUPPORTED IN YOUR CAUSE BY MANY POLITICIANS TODAY? There are many politicians, literally in any party one can name that openly endorse the need to humanize drug policies. It seems like everyone supports the reform, but no one actually enacts it.


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 30 - APRIL 2, 2018

Tbilisi Hills Becomes Latest European Tour Destination

David MacLaren, Head of European Tour Properties, and Perry Einfeldt, Managing Director of Tbilisi Hills

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uropean Tour Properties has broken new ground once again after Tbilisi Hills Golf Resort became the 27th destination to join the prestigious network of world-class venues, and the first from the Eurasian nation of Georgia. Located just outside the Georgian capital and perched near the foot of the Caucasus Mountains, Tbilisi Hills will open in the summer of 2018 as the country’s first 18-hole golf course and boasts captivating views of the surrounding area, including of the charming and historic city center itself. The parkland layout is designed by Tilander Golf Design, which is responsible for the production of 20 golf courses across five countries in Europe, including the Estonian Golf & Country Club, also part of the European Tour Properties network. The cornerstone of Lassi Pekka Tilander's design philosophy is to create new, exciting designs while still respecting classic golf design traditions. Tbilisi Hills epitomises that vision by incorporating the area’s natural surroundings into a stunning modern design. Created as an inclusive golf course for a nation which is relatively new to the sport, it features four tees on each hole, varying in distance to cater for all levels – especially junior golfers. From the back tees, the course measures 6,223 meters. The Tbilisi Hills project will expand beyond just the golf course, with a hotel, leisure facilities and hundreds of luxurious homes planned on the stunning hillside real estate. “We are very excited to be welcoming such a promising new golfing destination to our European Tour Properties portfolio,” said David MacLaren, Head of European Tour Properties. “Tbilisi Hills is a magnificent new venue with enviable panoramas, a superb layout, and the club also has strong plans for its future development. “The European Tour has always been determined to break new ground in the world of golf – whether it be through bringing our great game to new destinations and continents, or through spearheading innovation in the game – so adding Tbilisi and Georgia to our network of Properties fits perfectly with our vision as an organization. At European Tour Properties we are proud to boast a portfolio which includes some of the world’s most renowned and historic golf resorts alongside some of the most promising new destinations in Europe and beyond. We look forward to joining and supporting Tbilisi Hills on its journey.” Perry Einfeldt, Managing Director of Tbilisi

Hills, added: “Everyone at Tbilisi Hills is very proud to join the European Tour Properties network of world class venues. With Golf in Georgia still in its infancy, this partnership will help us to promote our wonderful sport within the Eurasian region and to firmly establish us as a destination on the world golf map. Despite Tbilisi Hills being very new, it already delivers many aspects required to meet the expectations of the discerning golfer: with further developments imminent, such our state of the art Clubhouse and magnificent hotel.” “Our ambition is for Tbilisi Hills to one day become the host venue for a fantastic European Tour tournament, and we will do everything to make this happen including already having the full support of the Ministry of Sports for Georgia.” European Tour Properties is a global network of 27 world-class golf venues across 20 countries on three continents and which all have a close relationship with the European Tour, one of the game’s foremost organizations. The network includes some of the most prestigious golf and lifestyle resorts in Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia, with many of the venues home to courses which consistently feature prominently in international rankings. European Tour Destinations also host an array of prestigious tournaments, including the Ryder Cup. The network boasts the only two European Tour Performance Institutes (ETPI) in the world, at Terre Blanche Hotel Spa Golf Resort in Provence, and Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai. The ETPI bases at both venues use the world class knowledge of the European Tour’s medical and performance services team and the latest in swing technology to improve the game of golfers of all abilities.

Our ambition is for Tbilisi Hills to one day become the host venue for a fantastic European Tour tournament

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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 30 - APRIL 2, 2018

On the Road Again: Svaneti BLOG BY TONY HANMER

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ell, the Jvari-Mestia road seems more and more to be lacking the necessary official attention nowadays, so I’ll continue to try to make up for some of that. Certainly, when it is actually closed the response is reasonably quick to solve the issue; but if it’s only damaged and we can still get through, well, less so! Aside from the three recent half-road fall-away sections I mentioned not long ago between the villages of Pari and Lakhamula, admittedly being worked on but needing months to redo, there are a couple more between Becho and Latali. But these latter are short enough that we merely maneuver around the new concrete barriers put up around them. As for Shavghele (Blackstream), a bit above Etseri, it is fast returning to “full-time disaster” status… The big one this time was a rock-slide between Lakhamula and Nakra, a traditionally bad spot for such where dynamiting was also part of the solution in Misha’s presidential terms. The road was completely blocked, and the minivan I was taking to Tbilisi arrived about four hours after the fall, mid-morning, to join two growing lines of vehicles above and below. About two hours after we came, a large machine arrived from higher up the road, with a big front scoop to start energetic work on the mess.

You could walk across it, but you’d better keep a heads up, because new rocks were tumbling down every now and then, some big enough and fast enough to take your head right off as they whizzed by without even slowing down a fraction. They gave the rockmover’s driver pause too, because they could do the same to him in his nice shiny glass cabin. But in the pauses, he tore right into the pile, shoving it around, gathering up what his scoop could hold and dumping it over the side of the road to bounce down to the Enguri river waiting far below. None of the rocks, not even the car-size ones, was strong enough not to shatter during this last tumble, being composed of thin layers of slate you could have separated with a hammer and chisel. But they would do the separating on you if those sharp edges made contact at those velocities. So we got as close as we dared for photos and videos, but no closer. A final mighty splash was the fate of every load, covered over by the churning river in full early spring melt flood. Forty minutes of work later, the road was cleared up enough to let us rush through the bad spot on our ways down to Zugdidi or up to Mestia. We didn’t linger there in case a new fall decided to start in this high-risk zone. I suppose all of us who live or travel through here enough have always known that the “2-dimensional” part itself, the road surface, was the easy bit. The constant 3D assaults on it from above, gravity assisted, rock-falls, avalanches, thaws

and freezes? Not so easy to manage or prevent, though an ounce of this is certainly worth a pound of the cure of the chaos left in its wake. The heaves and sinks of road sections, or outright dropoffs of those whole sections? They, too, would be so much simpler to prevent than to repair once having occurred.

Oh well, here we are, watching somewhat helplessly as our precious, once in a lifetime remade road re-disintegrates season by season, year by year, before our eyes. The result will not be pretty. 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 1850 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

Natakhtari Becomes Licensed Producer of Staropramen Beer “Staropramen Beer is popular among Georgian beer fans who understand the value of the brand. Natakhtari is proud to have started production of such a brand locally. In my opinion, it’s a great opportunity for beer fans to have locally produced Staropramen,” said the Business Ombudsman of Natakhtari’s success. Natakhtari Company offers its consumers 10 beer brands, Staropramen among them. It is among the most popular brands in the Czech Republic and has been produced since 1869. Staropramen is being exported to 37 countries, including Europe and North America.

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atakhtari Brewery organized a presentation of Staropramen, a global Czech Brand, and a brewing tour for special guests. After the informational tour, Cuneyt Arat, CEO of Natakhtari Company; Tomas Pernitsky, Ambassador of the Czech Republic; Nino Beneta, Director of Molson & Coors for Eastern Europe, Exports and Licensed Brands; and Nikoloz Khundzakishvili, Corporate Director of Natakhtari, addressed the gathered visitors. “I’m delighted to be in Georgia,” Nino Beneta said. “This Natakhtari Brewery presentation was delightful. Staropramen was established 150 years ago and since then it has been refining its prod-

uct and I am without doubt its beer produced by Natakhtari will be exactly the same as it is in the Czech Republic.” Following the official part of the event, Czech cuisine and Staropramen Beer were tasted in a distinctly “Prague” atmosphere. “Staropramen Beer is a global brand of Czech origin,” said Nikoloz Khundzakishvili. “It was extremely important for us to obtain license for its production. Natakhtari was recognized as a company which produces the highest quality beer. The licensing process took one year. We made investments both in infrastructure and quality control improvement and, as a result, we became one of the best producers in the world.”

10 Galaktion Street

Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: info@peoplescafe.ge


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 30 - APRIL 2, 2018

'Life Through Cinema' Georgian Film Festival, London

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY ROBERT EDGAR, LONDON

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EORGIA TODAY spoke to Keti Japaridze and Jason Osborn, the brains behind ‘Life Through Cinema,’ the annual Georgian film festival held in London. Now in it’s fifth year, it will run from 1 – 8 May and celebrates Georgian culture, from the food, wine, and music to the 100th anniversary of the shortlived first Georgian Republic, and contemporary issues of identity and society.

IS IT A FILM FESTIVAL WITH A FOCUS ON THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FIRST GEORGIAN REPUBLIC? Jason Osborn: We’re showing this amazing footage which is called the Independence Chronicles, shot by a newsreel company at the time. It shows the arrival of various European socialists – including Ramsay MacDonald – to Georgia and it also shows the handover of power from the French and the British to the Georgians in about 1919 or 1920. I think the quality of these films gives a very European feel to Tbilisi and Georgia at the time. Obviously, the first Republic only lasted three years, but one of the things that interests me in terms of Georgia’s development is that it was always struggling to be more European compared to what the Soviets demanded, and if you flash forward to the last twenty years since independence, you see that filmmaking has become much more Western; much more interested in individuals; people’s freedoms. I think it is a statement on how its culture was not lost; it fought on. Keti Japaridze: Of course, we wanted to do a festival anyway but this way it has a purpose; it’s a celebration. The first Republic was three years of constant celebration which ended in a bad way. This anniversary is very important. Because of difficulties in Georgia, we were never able to learn about it. We were never taught the history of this period until after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but then there was never

time to reflect on it. In a way, the festival exists to provide a platform for discourse. It was the first time Georgia had a socialdemocratic government, which is something to think about.

YOU’RE SHOWING A FILM FROM THE PERESTROIKA ERA, TOO? JO: We have Eldar Shengelaia, who is now in his eighties, coming for the festival. He made a very important film in 1983 which is called Blue Mountains: a satire on Soviet bureaucracy made even earlier than Perestroika. KJ: It had an impact; it’s a comedy about how the system is collapsing along with reality. JO: In a sense, it refers to the 1920s film ‘My Grandmother’ which was similarly anti institutionalized bureaucracy. We’re showing Nana Djordjadze’s film ‘My English Grandfather’ from the Perestroika period which was, I think, her first feature film and used a lot of footage from the Independence Chronicles, which the Russians had tried to suppress, particularly the scenes of General Kvinitadze being celebrated before…well, he put up quite a good fight against the Red Army! Parts of Nana’s film shows this footage; very much a barb to the Soviet authorities, and emblematic of Perestroika. I thought that was an important point to fix on in the context of the 100-year anniversary. KJ: The generation which experienced that loss of independence is seen in the film, and it’s almost like a mirage. The film is a piece of history from the 20th Century. It’s eccentric and beautiful, like Georgia.

AND IT’S NOT JUST FILM. THERE’S A POPUP RESTAURANT? JOHN WURDEMAN IS MAKING AN APPEARANCE? KJ: He’s an artist who came to Georgia, and we wanted to showcase Georgia: food-making; table-making. Georgian parties are a form of art really, and it’s something very unique. John Wurdeman is really associated with the culture… JO: And it’s not just John; he’s bringing four chefs and four singers. In the sense

of the renaissance of Georgian film-making (recognized in international film festivals), Georgians are finding a voice. It’s the same with the food and wine. There’s been a revival, and there’s a lot of food and wine in Georgian film. We want to contextualize some of the cultural aspects, like the toasting or the way that the songs work. I’m hoping that this will be understood in combination with the films. There’s great interest in Georgia, and the festival wants to build on that.

TELL US ABOUT THE EXHIBITION OF GEORGIAN FILM POSTERS JO: Nino Dzandzava is a deputy of the Georgian National Archive, which has a lot of Georgian film posters. I think a lot of them were commissioned by the state, which is probably why they have them, and she’s made a lot of them available to be brought to the UK. They’re very visual and show the way the Georgian’s think, how they comment on society, and we’re delighted that she’s coming.

WILL THIS BE THE FIRST TIME THEY HAVE BEEN EXHIBITED HERE? JO: I think probably anywhere! KJ: It’s an emerging thing; they sell this type of poster on street markets now: it’s retro, but to have them all together is quite remarkable. JO: We’re going to have two or three talks during the festival: one on the 1918 – 1921 period; one on Perestroika; and one on the cultural freedom found in Tbilisi now. To take one example, there’s a new club there that has a gay night, and one of the films we’re showing is about a transgender character. There’s a newfound sense of freedom and the youth are expressing that, whatever it may be. Also, Post Harvey Weinstein, there’s been a real self-examination about a lack of female representation. It’s the case in Georgia that there are a lot of female directors, and we have quite a few of them coming. Two of the really good new films are, Scary Mother (Ana Urushadze) and My Happy Family (Nana Ekvtimshivili), which is about a woman who questions her role and wants to move out of it. They’re interesting issues at the moment, and not just in terms of Georgia.

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CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 30 - APRIL 2, 2018

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER

TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 March 30 TURANDOT Giacomo Puccini Starring: Irma Berdzenishvili, Anzor Khidasheli, Khatuna Chokhonelidze, Gocha Datusani, Andrea Zaupa, Carlos Natale, Blagoi Nacoski, Iuri Aslanishvili, Levan Makaridze Musical Director - Zaza Azmaiparashvili Director- Alfonso Signorini (Italy) Scenographer- Carla Tolomeo (Italy) Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 15-100 GEL April 1 TURANDOT Giacomo Puccini Starring: Ekaterine Chkhaidze, Valeriano Gamgebeli, Irina Taboridze, Legi Imedashvili, Otar Shishinashvili, Gia Makharadze, Paata Sukhitashvili, Aleksandre Dekanoidze, Giorgi Mchedlishvili Conductor- Zaza Azmaiparashvili Director- Alfonso Signorini (Italy) Scenographer- Carla Tolomeo (Italy) Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 15-100 GEL SHALIKASHVILI THEATER Address: 37 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 595 50 02 03 March 30, 31 HOST AND GUEST Based on a work by Vazha Pshavela Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20 GEL TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATER Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 www.musictheatre.ge April 3 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 CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 GEL March 30 – April 5 PACIFIC RIM UPRISING Directed by Steven S. DeKnight Cast: Scott Eastwood, Tian Jing, Adria Arjona Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: English Start time: 17:15 Language: Russian Start time: 19:45 Ticket: 17 GEL TOMB RAIDER Directed by Roar Uthaug Cast: Alicia Vikander, Hannah John-Kamen, Walton Goggins Genre: Action, Adventure Language: Russian Start time: 14:30 Ticket: 12 GEL READY PLAYER ONE Directed by Steven Spielberg Cast: Letitia Wright, Olivia Cooke, Hannah John-Kamen Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 19:30, 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL March 30-March 5 THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT Directed by Johannes Roberts Cast: Christina Hendricks, Bailee Madison, Emma Bellomy Genre: Horror

Language: Russian Start time: 13:00, 15:15 Ticket: 8-10 GEL READY PLAYER ONE (Info Above) Start time: 13:40, 19:30, 22:35 Ticket: 13-14 GEL TOMB RAIDER (Info Above) Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 13-14 GEL PACIFIC RIM UPRISING (Info Above) Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL CAVEA GALLERY Address: 2/4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 200 70 07 Every Wednesday ticket: 8 GEL March 30-March 5 READY PLAYER ONE (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 19:45 Language: Russian Start time: 11:15, 13:45, 16:45, 17:10, 22:15 Ticket: 11-14 GEL THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT (Info Above) Start time: 17:30, 22:00 Ticket: 14-19 GEL PACIFIC RIM UPRISING (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 15:00 Language: Russian Start time: 14:30, 22:30 Ticket: 11-19 GEL TOMB RAIDER (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 19:50 Ticket: 11-17 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge

Exhibition GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF 18TH-20TH CENTURIES Exhibition 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 NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION Discover the State's personal files of "subversive" Georgian public figures, orders to shoot or exile, and other artifacts representing Sovietera cultural and political repression in Georgia. IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81

GALLERY

DIMITRI SHEVARDNADZE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Shota Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 215 73 00 March 6-April 11 EXHIBITION OF GIA BUGADZE’S ARTWORKS OLIM – EVER The exposition of Gia Bugadze’s artworks “Olim - Ever” represents a megalographic of 33 independent pieces. March 30 – April 18 EXHIBITION ASK FOR IT ANYWHERE The exhibition showcases artworks by more than 50 artists of different generations, thematically connected to "Laghidze Waters". The name of the exhibition, "Ask for it anywhere" appeared on the soft drinks' first advertisement banner and subsequently gained popularity. MUSIC

KELLER BAR Address: 36 M. Kostava Str. March 31 SVANSIKH SPILL LUDOFF Start time: 22:00 Tickets: 15-25 GEL BACKSTAGE76 Address: Vake park

March 21- April 10 EXHIBITION "GRAY ZONE" BY GIORGI UGULAVA The exhibition reflects the "zone" of corruption in modern culture and is connected to the sphere of influence.

March 31 KEN STRINGFELLOW LIVE, KID JESUS Start time: 21:00 Tickets: 10-25 GEL

March 23- April 1 EXHIBITION "DISCOMMUNICATION" BY LUKA ARABIDZE The exposition showcases three large artworks and a video piece united by the subjective attitude of the 14-year-old artist towards city and space.

April 1 INTERVIEW WITH A GRAND PIANO In Program: Synthesis of musical compositions and poetry of Dato Evgenidze. Start time: 19:00 Tickets: 25-30 GEL

STEINWAY & SONS Address: 1 O. Dgebuadze str.

TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE Address: 8 Griboedov St. Telephone: 2 93 46 24 April 1 THE SOUL OF THE VIRTUOSO Antonio Vivaldi- Four Seasons Johaness Brahms- Hungarian Dance #5 Tomazo Albinoni- Adajio, Andrew Lloyd Webber- The Phantom of the Opera, John Williams- Theme from Schinlder’s List, Uwe Berkemer- Doni Kezar, Davluri and Kartuli from the Caucasian Traditionals, Vazha Azarashvili- Nocturne, Sentimental Tango, Vittorio Monti- Csárdás UWE BERKEMER- Piano BELA BERKEMERMAKHARADZE- Violin Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 15-25 GEL DJANSUG KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC AND CULTURE Address: 125 Aghmashenebeli ave. Telephone: 2 96 12 43 March 31 CONCERT OF RUSSIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra Under the baton of Georgian violinist and conductor, George Babuadze Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-30 GEL


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 30 - APRIL 2, 2018

Alternative Tbilisi at Night – Discover a Parallel World from a Georgian Photographer’s Perspective

Miles Electric Band Feat. Ravi Coltrane Signed for Tbilisi Jazz Fest BY BENJAMIN MUSIC

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY BY LIKA CHIGLADZE

fectly acceptable. This is my main goal: to show a particular moment from my perspective, the way I see it.

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YOUR PHOTOS MAINLY DEPICT “NIGHT” TBILISI, WITH ITS BUS STOPS, OLD BUILDINGS AND STREETS. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORKS?

ime will pass and after decades we might recall today’s Tbilisi like we evoke Soviet Tbilisi in our memory when looking at old photos of the 70s. Photography is one of the most important archives recording the history of the city and different stages of its development. At present, we are witnessing Tbilisi in the process of transition from Post-Soviet to a modern European city. Georgian artist Sandro Bibliotekari, who captures night Tbilisi, shows the city from a totally different angle, unfolding the story the city conveys through his images. When I first came across Bibliotekari’s photos on the internet, I thought I was looking at the paintings of Edward Hopper brought to life. The more I went through his gallery, the more concealed details I discovered in the city; details that are sometimes invisible to us, or that we simply don’t pay attention to because it is a familiar environment. If you want to discover the parallel world of a Tbilisi that wakes up after dark, then definitely check out the sandro_bibliotekarii Instagram page. The alternative face of the capital of Georgia illuminated with neon lights, on the verge of old and new, will leave you impressed. It is also noteworthy that the photographer’s images have been spotlighted by international media and were featured in The Calvert Journal, the London-based online guide to the contemporary culture of the New East. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Sandro to find out more.

WHEN DID GET INTO PHOTOGRAPHY AND HOW? I always had an interest in visual arts. In particular, I was captivated by the modernism and postmodernism directions. Even though I graduated from the Tbilisi Academy of Arts, I never wanted to draw. I discovered my lust for photography when exploring other mediums. As it turned out, photography was relatively closer to me than painting. Exactly photography enabled me to express my views on the environment.

YOUR IMAGES ARE CHARACTERIZED BY NEON ILLUMINATIONS. HOW AUTHENTIC ARE YOUR PHOTOS? I think it’s ok for an artist to use any way or tool available to achieve the aimed result and to express ones’ views, as well as transmit one’s message. I think he/she must use all the tools at hand. In Georgia there is a certain cliché that a photographer should depict the environment as it is without any interference. I totally disagree with this notion, since a viewer might not experience the same feelings and impulses that I felt when looking at a particular still. Everyone perceives the environment in their own way, so what is visible to me might be hidden to someone else, and vice versa. Subsequently, using artificial techniques and enhancing the image to convey a certain message is per-

My works were basically influenced by cinema, especially Film Noir of the 1940-50s and sci-fi of the 1980s. The synthesis of these two genres fueled my vision as a photographer. Apart from that, 80s music also had a great influence on me, namely Post Punk, New Wave and Synth Pop. In art, I would also single out American artist Edward Hopper and his artwork Nighthawks that affected my style as well. I draw my inspiration from the latter; trying to transfer this world into Tbilisi reality and depict it in my images.

he leadership of this year’s Tbilisi Jazz Festival has announced Ravi Coltrane and Miles Electric Band as the main artists performing at the internationally acclaimed festival. Miles Electric Band is composed of award-winning singers and musicians and has heavily impacted the US West Coast Jazz scene over the last decades. Numerous prizes have been awarded to band members, such as Vince Wilburn who received a Grammy for his album “AURA” in the late 80s. Currently, 10 musicians make up the band, which often tries to reinvent itself by changing their member composition. “Also filling essential roles in the cast are bassist Darryl Jones, recognized for his recordings with Sting and decades-long tour duty on bass for the Rolling Stones, percussionist Mino Cinelu whose music score was recognized at the Cannes Film Festival, Antoine Roney on saxophone who has toured the world with jazz veterans Freddie Hubbard and Elvin Jones, rounded out by the electronic flourishes of hip-hop turntablist DJ Logic,” the festival announcement notes. Ravi Coltrane will join the band on stage to perform a mix encompassing Jazz tunes from across America. Born on the other side of America, the

Photo: tbilisijazz.com

New York jazz saxophonist is best categorized by his echoing sounds of the post-bop movement of freestyle and creative interpretation. He was strongly influenced by his parents, being born to saxophonist John Coltrane and jazz pianist Alice Coltrane. The Black Sea Jazz Festival in Batumi first welcomed the band in 2016, seeing them leave the audience in awe for their performance. The usual autumn setting of the Festival is altered for the first time and will see jazz rhythms out in spring. The start of the festival at the end of April coincides with the International Jazz Day on April 30, and is the day Miles Electric Band and Ravi Coltrane will perform. Before their act on April 30 at the Tbilisi Concert Hall, The Bad Plus is to mesmerize guests on April 28, before Naturally7 takes over the Tbilisi Event Hall on April 29. Performances: April 28 – THE BAD PLUS – Tbilisi Event Hall April 29 – NATURALLY7 – Tbilisi Event Hall April 30 – Miles Electric Band and Ravi Coltrane – Tbilisi Concert Hall Tickets - http://tbilisijazz.com/

HOW DO YOU SEE TBILISI AS A CITIZEN AND AN ARTIST? WHAT DOES THE CITY LACK? This question reminds me of American comedian George Carlin’s monologue “Saving the Planet.” The city is a living organism that has its own mindset, memory and character. It is the way it should be; it does not lack anything and lives on its own and will live even longer, with us or without us. We are drawn by our selfish desires. Some people want to construct highways, some arrange greenery and more parks, some want parking lots with many floors, some the bypass road near Tbilisi Sea, some want to construct more apartment buildings while others want to destroy them. The city itself already represents a brutal intervention into nature, and our intention to modify it and make it a more comfortable place to live is a demonstration of egoism. In China, there was a city called Kowloon that was completely demolished in the 1990s. In fact, the city represented one big building, since it was an extremely densely populated settlement. The buildings clung to one another, almost totally blocking natural light. The inhabitants had to have their lights and streetlamps on day and night. The city lived on its own and none of the laws worked within its walls, just as in the films The City of Lost Children and Dark City. For me, such a city is more appealing and interesting to capture with a camera rather than India’s 12th century charming palaces filled with tourists, or even Berlin’s vast green parks.

COULD YOU NAME A FEW FAVORITE PLACES IN TBILISI THAT ARE NOT WIDELY KNOWN TO THE PUBLIC? I don’t known whether it is less known or not, but I like Barnovi Bridge over Kekelidze Street. If you look down at Kekelidze ascent from the bridge during night hours, it will remind you of a the scene from the anime Ghost in the Shell or from Blade Runner. And the Tsereteli Avenue exhibition pavilions. The latter represents quite an interesting synthesis of Soviet postmodern brutal architecture and a green environment.

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Issue #1035  

March 30 - April 2, 2018

Issue #1035  

March 30 - April 2, 2018

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