Sergo Ninua (left) and George Tsabadze. (Interpressnews.)

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 of aviation, are also accused of being appointed illegitimately as Commander of Georgian Air Forces and Chief of Staff of the GAF, respectively.

They announced that they are relieving themselves from their duties until the investigation has uncovered the truth.

Prior to the announcement on Tuesday, Reserve Officer Davit Nemsadze, who was fired a few months ago, released a video in his Facebook account accusing acting Defense Minister Levan Izoria of promoting Ninua and Tsabadze, who are close associates of the former ruling United National Movement (UNM) party, even though they didn’t qualify.

Nemsadze also mentioned that under the previous government, that the two officials had exerted political pressure on soldiers and insulted military personnel for political reasons.

“They are UNM people, have been working in the ministry for a long time. In 2012, during the election period, they compelled soldiers to vote in favour of UNM, cursed them and stripped them of regalia,” he said.

Tsabadze is seen in a video taken during the election campaign in 2012, of a verbal confrontation with then-opposition Georgian Dream Party and Georgian Dream activist.

The First Channel even obtained a document which seems to show that the First Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Brigadier General Vladimir Chachibaia recommend that Defense Minister Levan Izoria appoint the two despite the fact that they don’t meet the criteria, which are to have the rank of colonel, a certain number of years of service and knowing a foreign language.

Tsabadze and Ninua rejected all allegations against them and called it a purposeful campaign to discredit them. They demand a fair investigation and to question everyone who voiced allegations against them.

“If a special commission would prove that it was a campaign against the reforms in the aviation and air defense command, we will demand to be brought back to our duties. If it appears that the charges are true and we abused power, we are ready to be held accountable before the Commission,” they said.

Defense Minister Levan Izoria said on Thursday that a minister has a right to appoint high ranking officials without adhering strictly to the rules. Exceptions can be made if there is a need for qualified staff, he said.

Izoria said the appointment of two officers bypassing formal procedures was due to the lack of qualified staff in the field.

“Their vision is absolutely consistent with the strategic review of the document, which is specifically linked to aviation,” Levan Izoria said, referring to Ninua and Tsabadze.

“As soon as the investigation has concluded, they will return to their jobs, as these guys are professional and have a specific view regarding the development of Georgia’s aviation, “ Izoria said.