The body of Sergeant Giorgi Kikadze, who died while serving in Afghanistan, was brought back to Georgia on January 1, 2013. (Ministry of Defense.)

TBILISI, DFWatch — The nineteenth Georgian soldier to die as part of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan will be buried January 5. The Ministry of Defense will cover the total costs of the funeral.

December 19, Sergeant Giorgi Kikadze was announced missing. He was last seen at a Georgian military base. The Defense Ministry and the Joint Staff of Georgia established a rescue team chaired by General Vakhtang Kapanadze which was sent to Afghanistan to search for the missing soldier. Ten days later, he was found dead.

January 1, the casket was brought back to Georgia, and a mourning ceremony was held at the airport. The Defense Minister, employees of the ministry and the joint staff, the US Ambassador to Georgia and family members attended the ceremony.

The Defense Ministry issued a short statement with the soldier’s biography. Giorgi Kikadze was born January 16, 1988 in Borjomi, a small city in southern Georgia. He had been serving in army since 2009. After finishing military training, he joined the artillery battalion of the second infantry brigade. Before leaving to participate in the ISAF mission, he graduated from a six month training course in spring. He left in October, 2012.

“The death of Giorgi Kikadze is a great tragedy for all of Georgia, for the Georgian Armed Forces,” the Defense Minister said at the ceremony. “Giorgi was a brave and courageous soldier.”

He said it was his second tour in Afghanistan, and had distinguished himself by his bravery.

“The only thing we can do is to take care of his family. We should do our best in order to relieve the tragedy for the family. We should continue our contribution to international operations with more caution and military professionalism in order to avoid such tragedies,” Irakli Alasania added.

Today, Thursday, Irakli Alasania had a phone conversation with US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who expressed concern regarding the death of the Georgian soldier. He asked the minister to personally express his condolences to the family on behalf of the US government.

Panetta underlined that US supports and values Georgia’s contribution to the ISAF operation.

Alasania said Georgia still remains reliable partner of the US. Georgian soldiers will remain in Afghanistan until the end of the mission and will continue to take part in the post-ISAF period after 2014.

Vako Avaliani, Adviser in the Defense Ministry, on Thursday told DF Watch that in the night of December 31, nothing serious happened at the Georgian military base in Afghanistan, but that the situation is heated. “Everyone knows this is a hot spot,” he added.