In brief

Rustavi 2 owners offer to hand shares over to staff

by | March 25, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The owners of Georgia’s biggest opposition TV station have offered to hand over a controlling stake in the company to its staff. The brothers Giorgi and Levan Karamanishvili published an open letter to the staff of Rustavi 2 staff on Friday, offering them shares in the embattled TV company.

News

Activists claim police are planting drugs on government critics

by | March 23, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The daughter of the president of Georgia claims police framed her friend because he has been involved in political work for the president. It used to be an oft-heard story during the Saakashvili presidency: regime critics who are set up by police planting drugs in their pocket. But now activists raise the alarm and say police are again placing drugs on people connected to the opposition in order to get them hooked for a crime. A crowd of protesters gathered in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs building in Tbilisi on Wednesday to protest the resurgent practice. Incredibly, the daughter the serving head of state was among the protesters. Ana Margvelashvili, daughter of President Giorgi Margvelashvili, claims that when her friend was detained recently, it was part of what the activists call ‘the repressive drug policies’ of the law enforcement agencies. Ana’s friend, Mikheil Tatarashvili, was detained on March 17 for possessing Subutex, a brand name of buprenorphine; a synthetic opioid used to treat drug addiction which is illegal in Georgia. Now the president’s daughter insists that her friend was detained because of his links to ...

News

11-year-old girl killed by car in Tbilisi

by | March 22, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--An 11 year old girl was killed in a car crash on the outskirts of Tbilisi on Tuesday. The tragic accident occurred in the morning hours Tuesday on Aghmashenebeli Lane on the northern outskirts of the city. The car, presumably a BMW,

In brief

Houses damaged, trees overturned by overnight storm in Tbilisi

by | March 21, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Strong wind hit Tbilisi Monday evening, uprooting tens of trees and damaging houses and street signs. Monday night at 10pm, the wind reached a speed of up to 32 meters per second in the capital. This qualifies as a hurricane,

Politics

Georgian president vetoes controversial surveillance bill

by | March 20, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili on Monday vetoed a surveillance bill which civil society groups claim does not go far enough in reining in the powers of the secret police. Also opposition parties have criticized the bill. They suspect that it will give

News

Eight more detained as blame game continues after ‘parking fine riot’

by | March 19, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Police detained eight more people on criminal charges on Saturday as the blame game continues for last weekend's violent riot in Batumi. Altogether, the number of detainees has now reached 100, all of them men, the local newspaper Batumelebi reports.  

News

Hungarian tourist killed by avalanche in Georgia

by | March 18, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A Hungarian tourist died in an avalanche in Georgia on Friday while skiing near Gudauri, a mountain resort north of Tbilisi. Authorities did not identity the victim beyond describing him as a man aged around 40. The accident occurred when a group of tourists

Crime

Spanish police detain 48 in raids against Georgian robbery gangs

by | March 17, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Spanish police have arrested dozens of Georgian nationals suspected of home burglaries in an elaborate operation said to be targeting ‘the Georgian mafia’. The police released information on Thursday but operations were carried out earlier,

News

Six more arrests in wake of Batumi ‘parking fine riot’

by | March 17, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Police in Georgia arrested six more people on Thursday who are suspected of having been involved in a riot in the Black Sea city Batumi last weekend that started with a disagreement over a parking fine. The six are expected to appear in court on Friday.

News

Two drug arrests of UNM-linked youth raise calls of politicized justice

by | March 16, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two young men related to government critics were arrested in Tbilisi on Tuesday on drug charges. Their mothers think it was politically motivated. One of the detainees is the son of Khatia Dekanoidze, a justice specialist who introduced Georgian experience with police reforms to Ukraine

In brief

Sen. McCain encourages Georgia to preserve pluralistic media

by | March 15, 2017

Georgian court's decision regarding Rustavi 2 looks like 'an attempt to silence opposition voices', US Senator John McCain said to Voice of America's Georgian service. "I am deeply concerned that the Georgian Supreme Court’s decision regarding Rustavi 2 appears to be an attempt to silence opposition voices in the press and curtail the country’s vibrant, pluralistic, and open media," Republican Senator from Arizona states in a written comment to VoA's Ia Meurmishvili. "As I have said, I strongly believe that a free and open press is an essential pillar of democracy, and vital for any democracy to succeed. I encourage the Government of Georgia to preserve a pluralistic media environment so that all voices in Georgia can be heard."  

News

Rioters will be strictly punished, Georgia’s interior minister warns

by | March 13, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Most who were detained in a riot in Batumi, Georgia have now been released, but the interior minister warned that they will be strictly punished. Seven people are still incarcerated after a court placed them in preliminary administrative detention,

News

Government and opposition trade accusations over Batumi riot

by | March 12, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The government and the largest opposition party in Georgia are blaming each other for being behind a riot that shook the Black Sea resort city Batumi last night, injuring dozens and leaving the burgeoning tourist destination in disarray. A special unit

News

PM Kvirikashvili blames ‘destructive political forces’ for Batumi riot

by | March 12, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--“A common incident has been utilized by destructive political forces to escalate the situation,” Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili stated at an emergency briefing at about 5 am on Sunday appealing the crowd in Batumi to calm down. “Unfortunately, those forces

News

Around 20 police and protesters injured in riot over parking fine in Georgia

by | March 12, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Around twenty police and protesters are injured after a riot broke out in Batumi, Georgia, Saturday evening over a disagreement about a parking fine. The riot began after a man refused to accept a fine for parking in the wrong place

Legal reform

Escalating rhetoric between Georgia’s parliament and president

by | March 9, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A meeting summoned by the Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has become the latest episode in the downward spiral of deteriorating relations between him and the ruling Georgian Dream party. On Thursday, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze

News

Prosecutors release secret videos in the Georgia’s church poisoning case

by | March 8, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Prosecutor's Office of Georgia on Wednesday presented its theory of how a priest allegedly was planning to murder an adviser to Patriarch Ilia II, backing the allegations up by secretly obtained videos. The central part of the evidence

Europe

EU denies link between Georgia visa waiver and refugee centers proposal

by | March 8, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A member of the European Unions executive branch denies that there is any connection between a proposal to host refugee centers in Georgia and the recent decision to allow visa-free travel to the Schengen area for Georgian passport holders.

In brief

ECHR suspends Rustavi 2 takeover ‘until further notice’

by | March 7, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday confirmed a decision by one of its judges to suspend a ruling by Georgia’s Supreme Court about changing the ownership of the opposition-leaning TV company Rustavi 2. "A Chamber constituted from the Section

Europe

Georgia rejects idea of hosting refugee center for EU

by | March 7, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia distances itself from a controversial statement by the Austrian minister of foreign affairs, who proposed establishing refugees’ centers outside the borders of the EU, including in Georgia. “There are no plans to set up refugee camps

Media

Georgian PM proposes creating new media ombudsman post

by | March 6, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s prime minister proposes creating an office of media ombudsman. The PM's proposal comes at the same time as the situation surrounding a lawsuit about the country’s most popular TV company remains in a deadlock. After a meeting with PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili

Media

Georgia’s embattled TV station Rustavi 2 plans new rally on Saturday

by | March 6, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Embattled Georgian TV channel Rustavi 2 plans another rally in Tbilisi on Saturday to protest what it claims is an attempt by authorities to silence free speech in the country. On March 3, Georgia’s Supreme Court upheld a decision to change ownership of Rustavi 2.

News

Leaders of Georgia’s Orthodox Church gather to discuss poisoning plot

by | March 5, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--When top clerics within the Georgian Orthodox Church gather for a Holy Synod on March 9, there are several difficult problems on their agenda, notably a priest accused of planning to murder someone in the patriarch’s inner circle. The Synod is the highest authority

News

Gvaramia: ECHR has suspended Georgian Supreme Court ruling

by | March 3, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The director of Georgia’s largest opposition TV company says the European Court of Human Rights has decided to temporarily suspend a ruling by the former Soviet republic’s Supreme Court which changes the ownership of the company, Rustavi 2.

News

Georgia’s president advises all sides invlolved in Rustavi 2 case to refrain from hasty steps

by | March 3, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Georgian president on Friday stepped into the tense situation surrounding the largest TV station in the country, urging all sides to refrain from undertaking 'immediate' action. The decision led to a protest

Legal reform

Georgia’s ruling party postpones switch to indirect election of president

by | March 3, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgian Dream is backing down on a previous pledge to phase out the use of direct elections to select a president already from next year. Instead, the ruling coalition plans to introduce the change from the 2023 election. “The rules of presidential

Media

Vigil held as Georgia’s embattled TV station vows to block takeover

by | March 3, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Opposition activists and supporters of Rustavi 2 held a vigil at the studio complex last night, after the Supreme Court upheld a decision to hand ownership of the embattled TV company over to a private investor who critics fear will silence the government’s

Media

Georgia Supreme Court upholds decision to change Rustavi 2 ownership

by | March 3, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Supreme Court in the former Soviet republic of Georgia has controversially upheld a decision to take away ownership of the country’s biggest opposition TV channel and hand it to a private investor. Critics say the decision will effectively silence

Media

Georgia Supreme Court begins review of Rustavi 2 case Thursday

by | March 2, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Supreme Court in the former Soviet republic of Georgia on Thursday begins to review a highly publicised lawsuit about the ownership over the country's biggest TV channel. The case concerns who shall control 100 percent of shares in Rustavi 2,

Europe

Georgian PM signs visa waiver document with EU

by | March 2, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--After years of negotiations, Georgia’s prime minister finally signed an agreement with the EU on Wednesday which gives his country’s citizens the right to visa-free travel to the Schengen area. The visa waiver plan will be published in the EU

News

Detained Georgian priest curses prosecutors and law enforcers

by | March 1, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Prosecutors in Georgia are still unable to interrogate archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze who is accused of murder attempt of an unidentified person from patriarch's inner circle. "Instead of responding to our critical questions, he cursed us,

News

NATO concerned about closure of Abkhazia checkpoints

by | February 28, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--NATO is concerned that the closure of two crossing points between the breakaway region Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia may have adverse impact on the local population. A spokesperson for the alliance on Tuesday asked for the de facto authorities

Europe

EU gives final go-ahead for Georgians to enter Schengen without visa

by | February 28, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A visa waiver system for Georgian citizens was given the final approval by the EU Council on Monday, and now only formalities remain until 3.7 million citizens of the Caucasus nation can enjoy up to 90 days trips to Europe’s vast borderless Schengen area

Sport

Georgian judo team takes two gold at Düsseldorf Grand Prix

by | February 27, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Georgian judo team performed brilliantly at Düsseldorf Grand Prix with two gold medals and second place ahead of Russia and France. The team from Japan won the competition with five gold medals. Vazha Margvelashvili (-66 kg) and Beka Gviniashvili (-90 kg)

News

Second Georgian contractor held captive in DRC named

by | February 27, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The second of two Georgian pilots who were taken prisoner by rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been identified as Vyacheslav Pluzhnikov. Pluzhnikov has a background from the Georgian air force. He was arrested for alleged espionage

News

Patriarch’s head of security resigns, citing ‘intrigues’

by | February 27, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--In the latest twist in the scandal about an alleged assassination plot within the Georgian Church, the head of the patriarch’s security detail confirmed Sunday that he has resigned from his post. "I went to his holiness… [and] asked for his blessing to left the position,”

News

Aerosmith concert in Georgia sold out in three hours

by | February 26, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Tickets for an Aerosmith concert in Georgia on May 20 went on sale Saturday and were sold out in three hours. Tickets were bought not only by Georgians, but also customers from neighboring Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Tickets for the concert, which will take

Politics

Georgian opposition party will not face charges for planting pot

by | February 25, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Members of an opposition party in the former Soviet republic of Georgia will not be prosecuted for planting cannabis in their office on New Year’s Eve because the saplings contained too little of the forbidden narcotic substance. The New Year’s Eve pot

News

Azerbaijan’s president confident pipeline across Turkey will go ahead

by | February 24, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev is certain that nothing can prevent the construction of a new pipeline from his country to the European mainland. As a major producer of natural gas, the Caspian Sea nation has much to gain from the planned Southern Gas Corridor,

News

Two Georgians held captive in DR Congo after military helicopter crash

by | February 23, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two Georgian private contractors are being held captive in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after the military helicopter they were in crash landed in the east of the country nearly a month ago. Georgia’s Ministry of Defense said Wednesday

News

Georgia’s church poisoning case still a mystery

by | February 23, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Breaking an earlier promise, Georgia’s top prosecutor did not release new evidence about an alleged assassination attempt in the Georgian Orthodox Church upon the return of the patriarch, leaving the public in the dark and the case shrouded in mystery.

Economy

State Oil and Gas Company Spending Questioned

by | February 22, 2017

Between 2012 and 2014, the Georgia Oil and Gas Corporation (GOGC) spent 3.8 million lari (about $US2.26 million) to finance patrols watching to make sure nobody was stealing gas from oil or gas pipelines.

News

Georgia may ban smoking indoors and at sports arenas

by | February 21, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Lawmakers in Georgia are pondering a blanket ban on smoking indoors which will also cover sports stadiums and all forms of public transport. If the bill is passed, smoking will be prohibited inside all kinds of buildings, except for private homes, laboratories

Politics

Georgia’s parliament has 41 millionaires

by | February 20, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--41 members of the Georgian parliament are millionaires (in GELs); 37 persons from the Georgian Dream majority and 4 members of two opposition parties, United National Movement and Alliance of Patriots. There are six millionaire ministers

News

New details expected in ‘cyanide affair’ as patriarch returns from Berlin

by | February 20, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia expects new details to emerge about an alleged assassination attempt in the higher circles of the Orthodox Church, as Patriarch Ilia II has left the hospital in Berlin and is expected to arrive in Tbilisi at around 6pm Monday local time.

Politics

Ex-laywer elected new Free Democrats leader

by | February 19, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A former lawyer has been elected chairman of the embattled Free Democrats, perhaps the most staunchly pro-western party in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The Free Democrats’ failure to win any seats in the 2016 parliamentary elections coupled with

Media

Rustavi 2 rallies supporters to defend freedom of expression

by | February 19, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A rally is underway in the center of Tbilisi to show solidarity with Rustavi 2, as a decision is expected in the Supreme Court that could change its ownership, and - according to supporters of the TV company - bring its criticism of the government to a halt.

News

Georgia’s biggest opposition TV station goes dark to protest ‘injustice’

by | February 18, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The biggest opposition TV station in the former Soviet republic of Georgia has voluntarily suspended its broadcast for two days to protest what it claims is an attempt by the government to silence it. "It was not an easy decision[…] but today we are left

Environment

Massive snowfall causing problems in western Georgia

by | February 17, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Massive snowfall is causing problems in western Georgia, especially the two regions Samegrelo and Svaneti, where the snow cover in some places exceeds one meter. An avalanche cut off an important road connecting Zugdidi and Mestia, the administrative centers

News

Target of Georgia Church poisoning attempt was patriarch’s adviser

by | February 16, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Top prosecutors in Georgia now say the target of an assassination attempt within the Orthodox Church was not the patriarch, but one of his advisers. In an interview with the newspaper Rezonansi, POG spokeswoman Natia Sukhiashvili specifically

Economy

Wizz Air launches low-cost flights between London and Kutaisi

by | February 16, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air is launching cheap flights between London Luton and Kutaisi, a city in the western Imereti region of Georgia. United Airports Georgia announced the direct flights Kutaisi-London-Kutaisi two times per week, on Thursdays

News

Georgia reacts to arrest of priest on murder attempt charges

by | February 15, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgians are reacting to the detention of an Orthodox priest whom prosecutors accuse of trying to poison a high church official, widely believed to be the head of the Georgian Church. The story immediately went viral in Georgia, where the Orthodox Church

Politics

13 UNM activists arrested at rally outside Tbilisi City Hall

by | February 14, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A demonstration in front of Tbilisi City Hall on Monday turned violent when activists for the United National Movement (UNM) tried to break into City Hall in order to meet Mayor Davit Narmania. Thirteen members of the opposition supporters were

News

Georgian priest arrested for planning to murder high church leader with poison

by | February 13, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--An archpriest in the Georgian Orthodox Church was arrested at Tbilisi airport, accused of trying to poison a person in ‘the Church’s highest hierarchy’ with cyanide. Archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze was arrested as he was trying to board a plane

News

Georgian man sentenced to twenty years in prison in breakaway region

by | February 13, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A court in South Ossetia has sentenced a Georgian man to 20 years in a Tskhinvali jail for ‘sabotage and terrorist activities’. 49 year-old Giorgi Giunashvili, a native of the village Disevi inside the breakaway region, was arrested by Tskhinvali forces

Legal reform

Georgian parliament overturns president’s veto of judicial bill

by | February 13, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Opposition parties in the former Soviet republic of Georgia warn that the independence of the courts will be weakened after the ruling party overturned the president’s veto against a judicial reform bill. The so-called third wave of judicial reform was vetoed

Caucasus region

Russian-backed enclave plans referendum about naming itself after medieval tribe

by | February 13, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Russian-backed separatists who have ruled a region of Georgia since the early 1990s plan to name their self-declared republic after a nomadic tribe that conquered swaths of Europe and North Africa in the Middle Ages. If the 50,000 population approves

News

51 people jailed for entering Georgia’s breakaway territories the wrong way

by | February 11, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia has jailed 51 persons over the last nine years for entering Abkhazia or South Ossetia from the wrong direction. The ombudsman now calls for a review of the law. Georgia’s Law on the Occupied Territories

News

UNM activists rally outside Supreme Court to save their TV station

by | February 11, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Activists from Georgia’s former ruling party gathered in front of the Supreme Court building in Tbilisi on Friday to support their TV station, Rustavi 2, in a private lawsuit that could dampen down its criticism of the government. The activists marched down

News

Rustavi 2 airs allegations against former deptuty chief prosecutor

by | February 10, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A fiercely anti-government TV station in Georgia aired allegations against a former high-level prosecutor purporting that he had tried to sell a secret recordings of a former prime minister and billionaire. The word fight was launched during

Minorities

Four transgender women attacked at Tbilisi nightclub

by | February 8, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Four transgender women are being treated for cuts after an attack at a nightclub in downtown Tbilisi, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The incident occurred at 7am Monday on Elbakidze Street, near Rustaveli, one of the main metro stations in the city.

Media

UNM to rally to stop Supreme Court ruling against Rustavi 2

by | February 8, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Activists from Georgia’s former ruling party are rallying in Tbilisi on February 10 in order to prevent the Supreme Court from ruling against the top people in the largest opposition TV station. UNM's Nika Melia said on Wednesday that the party of ex-President

News

Text messages ‘prove’ Saakashvili ally pressured Georgia Supreme Court judges

by | February 7, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s top prosecutor on Tuesday presented text messages allegedly sent from Ukraine as proof that a close ally of former President Mikheil Saakashvili had tried to put pressure on two Supreme Court judges in a lawsuit that could silence

Crime

Georgian sentenced to 13 years for killing a transgender woman

by | February 7, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A Georgian man has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for stabbing and killing a transgender woman acquaintance in Tbilisi last year. Tbilisi City Court decided to sentence 31 year-old Giorgi Murjikneli to 10 years in jail for  viciously attacking and cutting

News

Georgia cracks down on private school linked to Gulen network

by | February 6, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgian authorities have suspended the accreditation of a private school with links to the Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Ankara has accused of plotting the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The council of the National Center

In brief

Georgia Supreme Court judges silent about who pressured them

by | February 5, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two Supreme Court judges in the former Soviet republic of Georgia have still not revealed who tried to put pressure on them in a case about the ownership of a large TV station critical to the government. Judges Besarion Arveladze and Paata Katamadze,

Europe

Abkhazia suspicious of Georgia’s offer of visa-free travel to Europe

by | February 4, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia offers inhabitants in the breakaway region Abkhazia to be included in a visa waiver scheme to the Schengen area. Sukhumi calls the offer manipulation. The EU parliament on Thursday voted in favor of extending

News

Two of Georgia’s Supreme Court judges claim they were pressured

by | February 3, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two judges in the Supreme Court of the former Soviet republic of Georgia have filed a formal request to the country’s top prosecutor to investigate an attempt to influence them. The case led to an exchange of strong claims and counterclaims on Friday,

Media

Imedi-GDS merger heralds further consolidation in Georgian TV

by | February 3, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Imedi TV, one of Georgia’s largest TV stations, has bought GDS, a smaller company linked with billionaire and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. Imedi confirmed that it had purchased 100 percent of shares in the broadcasting company

Europe

EU parliament greenlights visa-free entry for Georgians

by | February 2, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The plan to extend visa-free entry into Schengen to more than 3 million citizens of the former Soviet republic of Georgia passed another hurdle today, as the EU’s parliament approved the plan with a clear majority. At a plenary session the 751 member assembly session endorsed

News

Georgian fighter seeks asylum in Ukraine to avoid extradition

by | February 2, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A Georgian volunteer soldier in Ukraine is looking for political asylum in Ukraine, as he believes his life's in danger if he returns to his home country Georgia. Former Vice Colonel Gia Tsertsvadze is wanted in Russia for a murder in 2003. Recently

Politics

President, civil rights groups reject new surveillance regulations bill

by | February 1, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A working group within the Georgian parliament on Monday proposed to establish a new agency under the State Security Service to monitor telephone and internet communications, as well as conduct video and audio eavesdropping.

News

2 military helicopters with Georgian crew crash in eastern Congo

by | February 1, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two Mi-24 military helicopters with a combined crew of at least four crashed on Friday in North Kivu province near the border with Rwanda and Uganda, authorities reported on Monday. Tbilisi based military magazine Arsenal wrote that

News

Theories swirl about what started Tbilisi shopping centre fire

by | January 31, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Several theories were circulating about the cause of a massive fire Monday morning near Tbilisi’s central railway station, which is estimated to have done several million US dollars’ worth of damage, but there is still no firm information about why it started.

News

Terminated employees protesting in front of Georgia’s Defense Ministry

by | January 31, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Hundreds of people protested outside the Defense Ministry on Monday against a mass layoff affecting over two thousand people, demanding fair treatment and respect for labor regulations. Protesters demand to get their jobs back and claim the ministry

Security

Georgia dismisses over 2,000 defense employees

by | January 30, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Georgian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has carried out its biggest layoff ever, as more than two thousands employees were dismissed on Monday. Both military and civilian personnel were affected by the mass layoff. The ministry explained the firings

News

Massive fire at Tbilisi shopping mall spreads, rips through central bazaar

by | January 30, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Thirty fire fighters in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi are trying to extinguish a massive fire that broke out Monday morning at a shopping mall near the city’s central railway station. The blaze has spread to surrounding buildings and engulfed

News

Georgians in Abkhazia protest closure of border crossings

by | January 29, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Authorities in Abkhazia have closed Nabakevi and Otobaya border crossings connecting the breakaway region to Georgia proper. The closing of the two checkpoints was announced by Lasha Tsaava, head of the legal department of the de facto

News

Georgia’s president pardons former Defense Ministry officials

by | January 28, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Georgian president on Friday pardoned five former defense ministry officials who were convicted of embezzlement in a politically charged case. The release of the five from prison Friday evening concludes one of the most significant

Education

Bologna inclusion lifted quality of Georgia’s education system

by | January 28, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia has bolstered the quality of its higher education and research, thanks to its inclusion in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), the authors of a new report argue. By joining the EHEA, popularly referred to as the Bologna process,

News

Georgian soldier freed by Kiev despite Russian extradition request

by | January 26, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A Georgian volunteer soldier in Ukraine was released from pre-trial detention Thursday evening, thus avoiding extradition to Russia, where he is accused of a murder in 2003. Gia Tsertsvadze thanked his supporters as he left prison but declined making further comments.

News

Georgian PM lectures EPP head on separation of powers

by | January 26, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s prime minister gave an EU politician a lesson in the separation of powers in democracies on Tuesday, explaining that a government cannot interfere in decisions made by the courts. Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the head of government

News

Georgian volunteer soldier’s arrest in Kiev stirs controversy in Georgia

by | January 26, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The top prosecutor in Ukraine is calling off a criminal case against a Georgian man who volunteered to fight in the war in Donbass. The man is accused of a murder in Sochi in 2003 and risks extradition to Russia. His defense lawyer at the trial

News

Vano Merabishvili quits post in Saakashvili’s party

by | January 24, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A former interior minister and close ally of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili resigned as secretary general of the National Movement on Monday, the latest episode of a turbulent few months for the party that reformed Georgia over the course of a decade.

News

Georgia ushers in bill to criminalize FGM after news report

by | January 24, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The government in the former Soviet republic of Georgia has proposed a bill which will make it a crime to carry out female genital mutilation. The bill comes after a journalist revealed last fall that the practice was still in use in a few villages in the east of the country.

Politics

Republican Party appoints woman to key position

by | January 24, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Republican Party in the former Soviet republic of Georgia on Saturday appointed a woman former lawmaker as new political secretary. The appointment the 39-year-old lawyer Tamar Kordzaia is seen as a move to promote gender equality in politics.

News

Tbilisi joins global Women’s March against Trump

by | January 22, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Like many other cities around the world, also Tbilisi held a women’s march on Saturday, following the inauguration of Donald Trump as new US President. The march was aimed at raising awareness about women's rights and other civil rights issues and started

News

Saakashvili-supporters regain control of the National Movement

by | January 21, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The pro-Saakashvili wing of the opposition National Movement party took control of the party on Friday at a high-profile convention that concluded a months long internal feud. According to party officials, over 7,000 delegates took part in the event at Tbilisi Sports Hall.

News

First end-of-life care unit for children opens in Tbilisi

by | January 20, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--After years of fundraising and hard work, a new end-of-life care unit for children living with life limiting illnesses has finally opened in Tbilisi. The center is a hospice for minors who need a specific type of palliative care. At the opening ceremony on Tuesday,

News

Georgia’s ruling party bounces in first post-election poll

by | January 19, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The ruling party bounces in a new opinion poll published on Wednesday by the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG) now dominates Georgian politics with nearly half of voters sympathetic to it. The poll was

Security

Lawyer’s group asks Georgian government to disclose Gazprom deal

by | January 18, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A group of lawyers in the former Soviet republic Georgia calls on the government to disclose a controversial deal it recently struck with the Russian-owned energy giant Gazprom over switching monetized payments for transiting Russian gas to Armenia.

Economy

Gazprom deal threatens Georgia’s fundamental interests, president warns

by | January 17, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili views a controversial deal recently struck between the Georgian government and the Russian-owned energy giant Gazprom as less favorable than the previous agreement, and ‘harmful' to the political and economic

News

Saakashvili believes Georgian tycoon Ivanishvili masterminded UNM’s failure

by | January 17, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Following the high-profile breakup of Georgia’s largest opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM), ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili on Monday sat down with Tbilisi based television channel Rustavi 2 and gave his first interview about

News

Poll shows stable support for EU and NATO among Georgians

by | January 17, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Support among Georgians for joining NATO and the European Union has fallen slightly but remains high, according to a new opinion poll published on Monday by the National Democratic Institute (NDI). The survey was carried out in

Minorities

In pictures: Sunday prayer in Batumi mosque

by | January 16, 2017

BATUMI, DFWatch--One Sunday in December, Muslims are cramming into the Orta Jame mosque in Batumi. Despite a three decades long effort to get permission to build a second mosque, they still have only one mosque to go to despite the city’s sizable Muslim population.

News

Saakashvili’s UNM splits in three factions in parliament

by | January 15, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The party that ran the former Soviet republic Georgia for nearly a decade has split into three factions in parliament after a long internal feud over the role of its former leader Mikheil Saakashvili. For a few days, there was doubt over whether what

News

Gazprom to switch to monetary transit fee for using Georgia pipeline

by | January 14, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia has agreed to less favourable conditions for allowing its territory to be used by Russian energy giant Gazprom to transit natural gas to Armenia. The resulting deal is is expected to be met with harsh criticism from the opposition and local energy experts.

Europe

EU parliament committee approves visa-free access for Georgians

by | January 13, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--3.7 million Georgian nationals came one step closer to getting visa-free access to EU’s vast borderless Schengen area on Tuesday, as members of the LIBE committee in the EU parliament added their seal of approval to the plan. The Committee on Civil Liberties,

Crime

Republican Party presents legislation to combat violence against women

by | January 13, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--In the former Soviet republic Georgia, the Republican Party has proposed legislation that will make femicide a separate crime - a gender-based hate crime which is causing alarm in the country. The Republicans, a party formed by Soviet dissenters in the 1970s,

News

Party which reformed Georgia during a decade breaks apart

by | January 12, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Three months long infighting in Georgia’s main opposition party concluded with dozens of members announcing their departure and formation of a new opposition party on Thursday. 38 heads of municipal and regional organizations

News

Police move on libertarians for NYE cannabis planting stunt

by | January 12, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Police in the former Soviet republic Georgia entered the office of a libertarian party on Wednesday, seizing 84 cannabis plants that were planted eleven days earlier in a publicity stunt to promote the decriminalization of drugs. The three officers spent

News

Breakaway South Ossetia prepares for presidential elections in spring

by | January 11, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Campaigning will soon begin for the election to become new de facto president of Georgia’s breakaway region South Ossetia. The secessionist parliament of the region must schedule the date of the election and start the campaign before January 29.

News

Breakup of Saakashvili’s UNM party seems inevitable

by | January 11, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Leading figures in Georgia's main opposition party the United National Movement (UNM) seemed to acknowledge that a split is inevitable in comments made on Tuesday. "This party is no longer united. When people don’t say hello

News

Son of former opposition leader charged with assaulting Rustavi 2 director

by | January 10, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The son of a former opposition politician in Georgia was Monday officially charged with having assaulted the director of the largest opposition TV channel. The suspect Rati Gachechiladze (29) pleaded guilty and was released on 5,000 laris (USD 1,800) bail.

News

Rustavi 2 head assaulted at father’s funeral meal by son of Maestro director

by | January 8, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The director of Georgia’s largest opposition-leaning TV channel was physically assaulted at a restaurant in Tbilisi Saturday evening. The attack took place as Rustavi 2 director Nika Gvaramia was preparing to leave a restaurant after the funeral of his father.

Media

Ad showing murder of Santa goes viral in Georgia

by | January 7, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A New Year’s commercial in Georgia has caused controversy for showing Santa Claus being murdered in front of a child. Now, the Public Defender calls on the advertisement company to stop airing the ad. The video (16+) ‘Santa

Media

Georgia’s Public Broadcaster selects new head who has links to Ivanishvili

by | January 7, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The supervisory board of Georgia’s Public Broadcaster (GPB) on Thursday selected as new director a candidate with close ties to the ruling party and personal links to billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. The decision to appoint Vasil Maglaperidze

News

Former Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava released from prison

by | January 6, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The former mayor of Tbilisi was released from prison Friday evening. Tbilisi Court of Appeal partially reduced his sentence to 1 year, 3 months and 22 days. As the detention is counted from September 18, 2015, his term expired on January 6.

News

Ivanishvili-linked GDS TV to shut down political programs

by | January 6, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A pro-government TV channel in Georgia is suspending its political programs in the wake of a merger of the country’s three major mainstream TV companies, a local online news website reports. GDS is closing down its ‘2030’ program,

Minorities, News

Culture house in Pankisi may close following ‘intentional’ fire

by | January 6, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A culture house in the Pankisi Gorge in the northern part of Kakheti may close after a fire that staff say was deliberately started. The fire on Tuesday didn’t cause much damage, but a spokesperson for the organization which runs the center

Economy

Influx of visitors to Georgia jumped 8 % in 2016

by | January 5, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Almost 6.3 million people visited Georgia from abroad in 2016. This is 7.9 percent more than last year, the head of Georgian National Tourism Administration announced on Tuesday. Out of the total number, over 2.7 million stayed in the country for 24 hours or longer

Minorities

Fire at Pankisi culture center was ‘intentionally set’

by | January 4, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A fire that broke out at a culture house in the Pankisi Gorge was intentionally started, a spokesperson for the center told a local radio station. The building is located in Duisi, the largest village of Pankisi, a mountainous area of Georgia inhabited predominantly

News

‘Come get us’ – Libertarians invite police action after NYE weed planting

by | January 4, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Leaders of a small libertarian party in the former Soviet republic Georgia ask authorities to hold them to account after a marijuana planting stunt four days ago meant to force a softening of the country's drug policy. So far, the activists have not

Security

John McCain reaffirms U.S. security guarantee during visit to Georgia

by | January 2, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Three American senators wrapped up their trip to Georgia on Monday by sending not-so-well wishes for the new year to Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. The two Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham and the their Democratic colleague

News

Georgian opposition party plants marijuana on New Year’s Eve

by | January 2, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The leader of an opposition party in the former Soviet republic Georgia made a small marijuana plantation inside the party office on New Year’s Eve as part of a campaign to decriminalize soft drugs. Zurab Japaridze, leader of a newly formed party called

News

Serbia prepares to lift visa requirements for Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan

by | December 31, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--While Georgian citizens are waiting for the final decision about a visa waiver system with the European Union, Serbia prepares to waive its visa rules for citizens of not only Georgia but also its two neighbors in the South Caucasus. “It was decided

News

De facto president hints Abkhazia might pull out of Geneva talks

by | December 30, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Abkhazia’s de facto government may pull out of the only format of negotiations between Georgia, Russia and the two breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia, de facto Abkhaz president Raul Khajimba warned on Tuesday. The former KGB officer

News

Abkhazia shuts down two border crossings with Georgia proper

by | December 30, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Authorities in Abkhazia decided at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to close Nabakevi and Otobaya border crossings which connect the breakaway region to Georgia proper. There are now only two crossing points that are operational, only one of which

News

Georgian court convicts Abkhaz border guard of murder

by | December 29, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A border guard working for the de facto authorities in Abkhazia, one of two Georgian breakaway regions, was Wednesday found guilty by the district court in Zugdidi of murdering a Georgian man at a border crossing checkpoint last May. Border guard Rashid Kanji-Ogli

News

Georgia’s ruling party declares ‘pragmatic’ policy toward Russia

by | December 29, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--As Georgia’s parliament prepares to declare the country’s foreign policy, the opposition National Movement has lashed out at the ruling party for wanting a ‘pragmatic’ policy toward Russia. Georgia aspires to NATO and EU membership, parliamentarians are preparing to declare,

Media

Maestro TV to merge with Imedi and GDS

by | December 28, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--One of Georgia's largest TV channels confirmed on Tuesday that it has successfully concluded negotiations to merge with two other channels that are linked to former PM Bidzina Ivanishvili. Maestro TV was a voice of independent journalism

News

Lado Bedukadze, who leaked prison videos in 2012, to become TV host

by | December 28, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Lado Bedukadze, a  former prison guard who has caused controversy in several of Georgia’s elections, will become a TV host on a newly established broadcaster. Bedukadze will host a short segment on a completely new channel called

Youth

Constitutional Court decides prison is too harsh punishment for marijuana use

by | December 26, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s Constitutional Court has struck down a law which sent many young people to prison for using marijuana. Being charged with possession and consumption of marijuana will no longer land you in jail in Georgia, after the Constitutional Court

Minorities

Catholics and Protestants welcome Christmas several places in Georgia

by | December 26, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--The arrival of Christmas was observed Saturday night at several churches in Georgia with Midnight Mass at the Catholic Assumption of the Virgin Mary Church in Tbilisi and in the Protestant Holy Trinity Church in Batumi. The ceremony in Batumi

Politics

Georgia’s largest opposition party on the verge of breaking up

by | December 25, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s biggest opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM), is on the verge of splitting in two, as its key figures claim the party is in the midst of a ‘coup attempt’. Givi Targamadze, the former chair of the defense and security

Minorities

Christians begin open air prayer on disputed ruins in Mokhe

by | December 23, 2016

ADIGENI, DFWatch--A dispute about the ruins of a mosque in the village Mokhe in the south of Georgia has deteriorated further after Christians began conducting prayer on the site. Muslims began holding Friday prayers on the ruins two months ago and did not stop

In brief

Man dies in avalanche in Svaneti

by | December 22, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A man died in an avalanche in Svaneti, in northwestern Georgia on Wednesday. The accident happened in Khaishi on the road between Jvari and Mestia. Rustavi 2 reported that the victim was a local minibus driver who had stopped his vehicle to look at the pileup

News

Data Akhalaia sentenced to 12 years for 2006 triple murder

by | December 22, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Tbilisi City Court on Wednesday sentenced former intelligence official Data Akhalaia in absentia to 12 years in jail in connection with the Navtlughi special operation in 2006. Data Akhalaia is seen as a close ally of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili

In brief

Policeman in Borjomi road rage incident suspended

by | December 21, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has suspended a police officer who allegedly beat a journalist from Iberia TV a few days ago. Journalist Giorgi Gasviani two days ago told of how he was beaten by a policeman and two others after his car slipped on the icy road.

Europe

Council of the EU confirms agreement on visa-free travel for Georgians

by | December 21, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--The prospect for Georgians to enter Europe without a visa came closer on Tuesday as the visa waiver agreement was approved by the Council of the EU’s Committee of Permanent Representatives, or COREPER. Tuesday’s decision

News

Georgian leaders condemn assassination of Russian ambassador to Turkey

by | December 21, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s prime minister made a made a quick visit to Istanbul on Tuesday a day after Russia’s ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov was shot and killed by a Turkish off duty police officer. PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili called the assassination ‘unprecedented

Economy

Two Georgians jailed accused of USD 25 million microfinance fraud

by | December 20, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Tbilisi City Court on Sunday ordered the pre-trial detention of two Georgians who are suspected of embezzlement of more than USD 25 million from thousands of microfinance customers. The court rejected a motion to release the accused

News

Fire on Kutaisi-Batumi passenger train under investigation

by | December 20, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Police in Georgia are investigating a fire which broke out Sunday aboard a passenger train en route from Kutaisi to Batumi on the Black Sea. The blaze occurred near the village Khajalia. Although the train carriage was severely damaged,

News

Georgian journalist tells of road rage by police

by | December 19, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A journalist in Georgia claims police beat him and pointed a gun at him following a traffic incident. The incident happened in Borjomi, a town in the southern part of Georgia, Iberia TV reported on Monday. Journalist Giorgi Gasviani, who works for

News

The Trump Organization cancels hotel deals in Georgia, Azerbaijan

by | December 19, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has decided to extricate his business from potentially conflicting relationships before he moves into the White House by revoking a licensing deal for a hotel in Georgia and its neighbour country Azerbaijan,

News

Opposition in Abkhazia ends protest, deal struck with de facto authorities

by | December 17, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A more than 14 hour long protest ended on Friday with negotiations between opposition leaders and the embattled de facto leader of the Georgia’s breakaway region Abkhazia. On December 15, hundreds of people converged on the government building in Sokhumi,

In brief

Snow and ice causing flight delays at Kutaisi airport

by | December 17, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Several flights were delayed at Kutaisi International Airport on Saturday due to ice. The airport informed that the flight to Thessaloniki, Greece was cancelled, while also  flights to Warsaw, Poland and Budapest, Hungary were delayed for one day.

Roads update

Restrictions on some mountain roads due to snow and ice

by | December 16, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--There are still road restrictions many places in Georgia due to the weather. Here is the latest update from the Road Department. Trailers and semi-trailers are prohibited from driving on the Mleta-Kobi section of the S-3 road from Mtskheta to Larsi,

Politics

Healthcare and infrastructure top priorities in Georgia’s 2017 budget

by | December 16, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Following fierce debate between opposition and ruling Georgian Dream members, Georgia’s legislative body on Wednesday approved the 2017 state budget by 102 votes in favor and 10 against. The upcoming state budget envisages GEL 9.489 billion

Crime

18th and 19th Century books stolen from Georgia’s National Library

by | December 16, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Police in Georgia arrested a man on Wednesday for stealing two historical books from the National Library the day before. The books the 64-year-old is accused of stealing date back to the 18th and 19th Century, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) wrote in a statement.

Politics

Georgian opera singer Paata Burchuladze ends stint as politician

by | December 15, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Paata Burchuladze, a Georgian opera singer who formed a political coalition which participated in the October 8 election, announced his departure from politics on Wednesday. Local media outlets wrote that the new leader of the party will be historian Nika Machutadze.

Politics

Georgia’s former ruling party fires senior functionaries

by | December 15, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--The infighting in the United National Movement (UNM) continued on Wednesday as 20 members from the main opposition party's central administration were dismissed. The dismissal impacted mostly those who side with Saakashvili loyalist Chiora Taktakishvili,

Politics

President boycotts constitutional commission, calls for public hearing

by | December 14, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili may refrain from participating in the work of the state constitutional commission and instead start ‘actively lobbying’ for launching a public discussion regarding constitutional amendments,

News

Georgian-born militant dies in Syrian war

by | December 14, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--There were reports on Tuesday that 20-year-old Ramzan Baghakashvili from Pankisi Gorge in the northeast of Georgia has died in Syria. Baghakashvili, who was from a village Dumastura, left Georgia for Syria two years ago with another teenager.

News

What’s behind a one-man protest outside the government office?

by | December 13, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--For two days, Nika Cherkezishvili has spent the night outside the government office in Tbilisi, refusing to leave until he gets a meeting with Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. What caused Cherkezishvili begin a one-man protest is that he claims

Environment

Locals rescue two youth from the snow after avalanche

by | December 13, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two young people were pulled out of the snow alive Monday evening after being caught by an avalanche in a mountainous part of Georgia’s Adjara region. Locals helped the two survive the ordeal. They did not have life-threatening injuries but were taken to hospital.

News

Young camerawoman found dead in her apartment

by | December 12, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A 27-year-old camerawoman working for Georgia’s Public Broadcaster was discovered dead in her apartment in Kutaisi Sunday night. Sopho Bobokidze’s death was first reported by her friends in social media. A health problem is the likely cause

Youth

Protest for drug liberalization leads to detentions in Tbilisi

by | December 12, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A protest against Georgia’s strict drug policy led to clashes with police and two people being detained in Tbilisi on Saturday.  Protesters gathered in front of the parliament building on Rustaveli Ave in Tbilisi to demand a softer drug policy.

Crime

Woman shot and killed by ex-husband

by | December 12, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A woman died in Georgia’s eastern Kakheti region on Friday after being shot in the head by her ex-husband. The incident happened as the man visited the victim’s house, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) said on Saturday. During an argument

News

Georgian man gets in trouble with Svanetians for posting naked selfie

by | December 12, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Social media in Georgia have lit up with debate about a young man’s naked self-portrait in the highland region Svaneti. Was it an insult to local traditions? The debate was sparked by a video posted on Facebook which shows the man apologizing

In brief

Georgian PM appoints veteran diplomat as foreign affairs adviser

by | December 12, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili has appointed veteran diplomat and former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in Georgia’s Parliament Tedo Japaridze as foreign affairs advisor. Japaridze served as foreign minister in 2003 to 2004,

News

EU states remove last obstacle to visa waiver scheme for Georgia, Ukraine

by | December 10, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--The European Union on Thursday finally agreed on a visa waiver suspension mechanism, the last obstacle to the long-awaited visa free travel scheme to go into effect for Georgian and Ukrainian nationals. On December 7, the EU’s three governing bodies, the European Council,

Roads update

Mountain roads in Georgia closed for trailers because of snow

by | December 8, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--There are road restrictions all over Georgia due to bad weather, the Roads Department warned Thursday. Trailers and semi-trailers are prohibited from driving between the 1km and 50km mark on the S-8 Khashuri-Akhaltsikhe-Vale road,

Crime

Georgian man sentenced to ten years in jail for murdering US tourist

by | December 8, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--The district court in Telavi, in Georgia’s eastern Kakheti region, on Thursday sentenced a man to 10 years in jail for murdering a US citizen last August. The court determined that on August 12, 2016, Mikheil Chincharashvili met the US tourist

News

Convention to combat violence against women still not ratified after two years

by | December 7, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--In 2014, Georgia signed an international convention to end violence against women and impunity of perpetrators, but two years later the country has still not ratified it. After Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani had signed the Istanbul Convention on

News

Under-staffing indicated as cause of miner’s death in Chiatura

by | December 6, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A 53-year-old man died in an accident in a manganese mine in Chiatura on Saturday. Paata Ghavtadze died from injuries while leaning out of the locomotive he was driving in the poorly-lit Itkhvisi mine in the mining town in the Imereti region in central Georgia.

Minorities

Compromise it took two years to plan failed to solve mosque dispute

by | December 5, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Muslims in Mokhe in southern Georgia do not accept a compromise suggested by a government commission and continue to pray on the ruins of a mosque in the village. Local Muslims and Orthodox Christians have disagreed for two years

News

One dead, eight injured as truck slams into minibus

by | December 4, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--One person died and eight were injured Saturday in an accident in the south of Georgia. The accident happened on the Tbilisi-Akhaltsikhe highway near Atskuri at about 13:00. The local newspaper Sknews.ge reported that a truck crashed with a minibus

In brief

19.3 percent more tourists so far in 2016

by | December 3, 2016

Almost 5.9 million international visitors arrived in Georgia during 2016, which is 7.9 percent more than in the same period last year, the head of Georgian National Tourism Administration said on Friday. Out of these tourists (who stayed in the country during 24 hours and longer)

News

UNESCO recognizes Georgian alphabet as part of humanity’s shared heritage

by | December 1, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Georgian alphabet has been recognized by UNESCO as part of humanity’s cultural heritage. The decision to include three variations of the Georgian alphabet in the United Nations agency’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

Europe

Martin Schulz optimistic about visa liberalization for Georgia

by | December 1, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili met President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz on Wednesday. Schulz is leaving EU politics when his term expires in January in order to focus on the federal elections in Germany next year,

Politics

UNM barely avoids splitting in two after talk of ditching Saakashvili

by | December 1, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--The faction supporting Mikheil Saakashvili narrowly won a debate at a National Movement party conference on Wednesday. A  resolution was passed to hold a party convention in the format favored by the country’s former president.

Economy

Government deal to soften impact of currency drop on mortgage lenders

by | November 30, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Georgian government offers a temporary aid package to people who have their mortgage loans in US dollars, to ease the disastrous consequences of the lari’s continued race to record low depths. The decision was made at a

News

Georgian government to raise excise tax due to tanking lari

by | November 29, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Amid growing discontent with the economic situation in the country, and a national currency which plunges to new depths every day, the government announces a hike in excise the tax rate for fuel, tobacco, imported autos and gambling. "As you know,

News

13 women killed in family violence so far in 2016

by | November 29, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--New grim figures from Georgia’s ombudsman show that 13 women have been killed in family violence during the first ten months of 2016. In some cases, the police were alerted in advance, but did not intervene. Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili spoke Friday about

Politics

Founder of failed UNM splinter party leaves politics to start lobbying firm

by | November 29, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A former lawmaker with background from the National Movement announced on Monday that he is leaving politics, after founding and campaigning for the splinter party Girchi. Pavle Kublashvili, a former head of the justice committee in parliament,

Education

Fake TSU diplomas may be in circulation after forgery ring busted

by | November 29, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A forgery ring sold diplomas that looked like they were issued by the country's most prestigious educational institution, Tbilisi State University. Investigators are now trying to hunt down the fake documents.

Politics

Georgian parliament approves new government

by | November 28, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Georgian parliament Saturday passed a vote of confidence in a new cabinet government formed after Georgian Dream won a landslide in the October 8 election. 110 MPs voted for and 19 against a cabinet, which had only three personnel changes

Minorities

Another transgender woman attacked in Tbilisi

by | November 28, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A transgender woman was attacked in Tbilisi on November 25. The attack happened late at night on Tamar Mepe Avenue. The target of the attack, Nata, had her nose broken and suffered other facial injuries. She left the hospital on Saturday.

Youth

TSU students begin new sit-in, demand election cancelled

by | November 27, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Student at Tbilisi’s largest university began another round of protest this week, breaking into building number 6 of TSU and refusing to leave until there are reforms of the education system. Using the same name as the ad hoc group during a wave of protests

News

Britain’s Sir Alan Duncan visited Georgia

by | November 27, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Sir Alan Duncan, United Kingdom’s Minister for Europe and the Americas, visited Georgia this week to take part in bilateral talks about reforms and security. The Waldrop dialogue is an annual conference between representatives of the two countries’

News

Georgian lari hits all-time low

by | November 27, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgian lari on Friday hit an all-time low at 2.5026 against the US dollar. The previous record was in January this year, when it was valued at 2.49 laris per USD. Georgia’s National Bank has sold USD 180 million of its reserves since August, but has not

News

Women in Tbilisi say: We won’t give away the night

by | November 26, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Women carried dresses and skirts as flags through central Tbilisi on Friday to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The march was organized by Movement of Women and began from Pushkin Square in the center toward the police station.

In brief

Video: Brawl erupts between Georgian politicians’ debating live on TV

by | November 25, 2016

Tbilisi, DFWatch - A fistfight broke out between two guests during live political talk show between supporter of the United National Movement and a retired colonel, turned a conservative political analyst.

Politics

Georgian interior minister lists achievements ahead of confidence vote

by | November 25, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Acting Interior Minister Giorgi Mghebrishvili showed up at several committee hearings on Wednesday as parliamentarians were preparing for a vote of confidence in the new cabinet. Listing his ministry's achievements, Mghebrishvili said police in Georgia

News

Georgian prosecutor plans to reopen case against former president’s son

by | November 24, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Prosecutor General’s Office in Georgia is planning to take a fresh look at a high profile trial against the son of deceased former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. "Prior to this decision, a comprehensive and objective investigation had been repeatedly

Crime

Two arrested after dismembered body found in Tbilisi basement

by | November 24, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two persons have been arrested i Georgia accused of involvement in a macabre murder. One of the suspects is accused of killing the victim in an alcohol fuelled rage. The murder took place in late October, according to investigators. A neighbor complained

Minorities

Transgender Zizi dies in hospital after brutal attack

by | November 24, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A transgender woman who was attacked and severely injured on October 14 died at the hospital Tuesday night. The lawyer for the Women’ Initiative Supportive Group informed journalists that Zizi (32) had passed away. The attacker cut her throat

Security

General Chachibaia promoted to chief of the Georgian Army General Staff

by | November 24, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--President Giorgi Margvelashvili on Tuesday appointed General Vladimer Chachibaia as new chief of the General Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces (GAF). 45-year-old Chachibaia, who served as chief of the Joint Staff of the armed forces

In brief

Two flights cancelled at Tbilisi airport due to pilot strike in Lufthansa

by | November 23, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Tbilisi international airport reported two flights are postponed on Wednesday because of the pilot strike in Lufthansa. The two affected flights were to have been carried out early Thursday morning, Tbilisi-Munich at 4.05am and Munich-Tbilisi at 5.00am.

News

Putin ratifies agreement to join military forces with breakaway Abkhazia

by | November 23, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Russian President Vladimir Putin has ratified an agreement to join the military forces of Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia, with the Russian armed forces. The combined forces agreement signed on November 21, 2015 establishes a joint

News

FGM will be ended ‘very soon’ in Georgia, says acting justice minister

by | November 23, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A government spokesperson says she had never imagined that female genital mutilation is being practiced in Georgia, and that the practice will be ended very soon. Three villages in the eastern Kakheti region are maintaining the practice which

Politics

Georgia’s Prime Minister reveals new cabinet: Who’s in and who’s out?

by | November 23, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s acting head of government Giorgi Kvirikashvili on Tuesday unveiled his new cabinet, with only minor personnel changes from the last one. One notable change is the promotion of Dimitri Kumsishvili from Economy Minister to the more important

News

McCain visits Georgia in January

by | November 21, 2016

Tbilisi, DFWatch - Before the America’s president-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of the office, a leading Republican Senator,   Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, and his fellow party member Lindsey Olin Graham will lead a congressional delegation to Ukraine, Georgia and Estonia January to push back against Trump on Russia policy.

News

Georgia wins Junior Eurovision Song Contest

by | November 21, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia has won the Junior Eurovision Song Contest for the third time. At the final, which was held in Malta, Mariam Mamadashvili won with a performance of the song ‘Mzeo’ which garnered 239 points.

News

Georgia’s patriarch pledges to mend ties to Russia

by | November 21, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Patriarch Ilia II joined other Eastern Orthodox leaders in Moscow on Sunday to attend the 70-year anniversary of the Russian Orthodox Church. According to the Patriarchate of Georgia, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II was invited by the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow

Minorities

Transgender Day of Remembrance observed in two cities in Georgia

by | November 21, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--The International Transgender Day of Remembrance was observed in two cities in Georgia on Sunday. In Kutaisi and Tbilisi, small gatherings commemorated transgender people who have been murdered as a result of transphobia.

Politics

Georgian parliamentarians appointed faction leaders

by | November 20, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--The newly elected parliament mits first session on Friday, and one of its first decisions was to register five factions and the majority and minority. The Georgian Dream majority consists of 116 MPs. 115 are members of Georgian Dream, which received

Politics

Government takes caretaker role as parliament begins selecting new cabinet

by | November 20, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Georgian parliament approved the composition of the new parliament on Friday, and the government now has a caretaker role until lawmakers has approved a new government. MPs voted to recognize the authority of the ninth parliamentary assembly.

News

Ivanishvili sells de Kooning painting at Christie’s for USD 66 mill

by | November 19, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A large, colorful abstract Willem de Kooning painting from one of the artist’s most productive periods was Tuesday sold at Christie’s post-war and contemporary auction in New York. The price: USD 66.3 million. The Dutch-American artist’s ‘Untitled XXV’ from 1977

Politics

UNM member refuses to serve in Adjara’s supreme council

by | November 18, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A politician for the UNM party in Adjara has refused to serve in the region’s supreme council, echoing a recent decision by Sandra Roelofs, the former first lady, to not take her seat in parliament. Levan Varshalomidze, former chairman of the Adjara government,

News

Margvelashvili vows to protect presidential powers in the face of GD-dominated parliament

by | November 18, 2016

Tbilisi, DFWatch - President Giorgi Margvelashvili said that he wouldn't tolerate acts directed against state institutions in his welcoming speech on Friday at the opening session of the newly elected parliament.

News

Israel prepares to turn away asylum seekers from Georgia and Ukraine

by | November 18, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Israel might begin rejecting asylum requests from citizens of Georgia and Ukraine, Tel Aviv-based newspaper Haaretz reports. The past two years have seen a surge in asylum requests by Ukrainians and Georgians, as citizens of these countries

News

Defense officials accused of mixing politics and service vow to clear their name

by | November 17, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two high officials in Georgia’s Defense Ministry temporarily suspended themselves from their duties on Wednesday, after being accused of abuse of power during the Saakashvili presidency. Sergo Ninua and George Tsabadze, both lieutenant-colonels

News

Georgian opposition party threatens to plant marijuana on New Year’s Eve

by | November 17, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--A political party in the former Soviet republic Georgia has launched an unusual campaign to legalize marijuana: If the parliament doesn't decriminalize the weed by the end of the year, they will plant the narcotic plant in their office on New Year's Eve.

Politics

UNM nominates parliament posts while discussing successor to Saakashvili

by | November 17, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--The National Movement has nominated Sergi Kapanadze as vice speaker of parliament from the minority. The leader of the parliamentary minority will still remain Davit Bakradze. He was speaker of parliament from 2008 to 2012. Nika Melia, who was UNM’s candidate

Economy

Plans revived for Trump Tower in Batumi, Georgia

by | November 17, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Plans for a Trump Tower on Georgia’s Black Sea coast are being revived, after laying dormant for the last five years. Newly elected US President and businessman Donald Trump visited Batumi personally in 2012 and later praised Mikheil Saakashvili

Europe

Georgia’s Orthodox Church realizes it was wrong about EU and NATO

by | November 16, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Clergy from the Georgian Orthodox Church describe getting rid of some misconceptions about NATO and EU after a visit to Brussels last week. The unprecedented visit started November 7 with Georgian clergy meeting NATO's envoy for South Caucasus

Crime

Man sentenced to 12 years for attack on opposition politician

by | November 16, 2016

TBILISI, DFWatch--Tbilisi City Court on Tuesday sentenced a man to 12 years in jail for shooting an opposition politician last February. Alexi Petriashvili, then the party secretary of the Free Democrats, was approached by two men on a cemetery in the middle

News

Georgia slightly improved in Internet Freedom ranking

by | November 16, 2016

Tbilisi, DFWatch - Internet freedom across the globe declined for a sixth constructive year and two-thirds of the world's internet users live in countries where authorities resort to censorship. However, Georgia has improved its position and has ranked as a free country according to a report released on Tuesday by Freedom House, a US government-funded pro-democracy NGO.

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