Lavrov’s relatives left Georgia

Elena Khoshtaria, the head of the “Droa” party, and TV “Mtavari” stated on May 20 that Sergei Lavrov’s sanctioned daughter, Ekaterina Lavrova, with her husband was in the “Kvareli Lake” hotel, where Ekaterina Lavrova’s wedding was scheduled.

The journalist from “Mtavari” TV contacted the hotel and identified herself as a flower shop salesperson. “I am a representative of the flower shop and I want to clarify something,” the journalist said to the hotel official. ”Ekaterina Lavrova has placed an order with us for a bouquet. We’ve already sent the flowers, and they’re on their way; could you please notify me whether the guest arrived?”

The hotel operator requested further time to verify the information before confirming that the bouquet had been delivered to the right address. The administration of the “Kvareli Lake “hotel complex afterwards issued a statement denying Ekaterina Lavrova’s presence. 

Ekaterina Lavrova has adopted her husband’s surname, Vinokurova, as per the statement from Elene Khoshtaria, the leader of “Droa.” The wedding ceremony, captured in video footage shared on social media, occurred in Tbilisi, while the wedding reception was hosted in Kakheti.

In the midst of public protests, Georgia’s President, Salome Zurabishvili, stated at a press conference on May 20 that, according to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Vakhtang Gomelauri, the relatives of Sergey Lavrov, have left Georgia and are no longer in the country.

“I received a promise from the Minister of Internal Affairs that the family and people who planned to pay for the wedding today have left, and the wedding will not take place today,” the president said, adding that “this is a kind of victory for society, just like it was when Gavrilov left this country.”

The president also criticised the government during the briefing, saying, “You can’t play with your people like that, you can’t annoy your people like that. This is an insult to the Georgian people, who know very well how to protect their dignity and independence.” 

She emphasised that “in this very tense situation, the government cannot play on people’s nerves,” in light of Russia’s year and three-month intervention on Ukraine. “It is the achievement of society that these people left today,” the president added, “but society cannot do more than that.”

Protests accompany the first direct flight from Moscow to Tbilisi

The first direct flight from Moscow to Tbilisi since Moscow’s decision on resumption of direct flights with Georgia has landed at Tbilisi International Airport today.

The arrival of the flight was met by a group of protesters who gathered near the airport to express their opposition to the resumption of direct flights. The demonstrators displayed banners, blew whistles and raised their voices in opposition to the flight. The police officers were mobilised at the perimeter of the airport. Up to 10 protesters have been detained, according to media reports.

The protesters stressed that the resumption of flights means a further deviation from the EU integration course and noted that the landing of the Russian plane coincided with the seventh anniversary of the killing of Georgian citizen Giga Otkhozoria by Russian occupation forces near the Abkhazian occupation line. 

Among the passengers on the flight were pro-Russian Georgian politicians and journalists. 

Georgian President Zurabishvili took to Twitter to express her disapproval, stating: “Despite the opposition of the Georgian people, Russia has landed its unwelcome flight in Tbilisi.”

On the same day, the rally was also held in Tbilisi, on Rustaveli Avenue.

Parliament elects three non-Judge members of HCoJ

Today, in a secret vote, the Parliament elected three non-judge members of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ)- Tristan Benashvili (93 votes), Giorgi Gzobava (91 votes), and Zurab Guraspashvili (93 votes) were elected as non-judge members of the HCoJ. The voting was anonymous.

During the voting, part of the opposition left the plenary session in protest. Two seats remained vacant after the opposition walked out, causing the voting process to be suspended. After the technical break, the remaining candidates could not collect 90 votes.

Later, it was made clear that opposition MPs from the United National Movement faction of the united opposition “Strength in Unity” had come forward to clarify their support for candidates seeking to become non-judge members of the SCoJ. The MPs in question are Nika Machutadze, Nato Chkheidze, Rostom Chkheidze, Bachuki Kardava, and Dilar Khabuliani. While the first four MPs are active members of the United National Movement faction, Dilar Khabuliani has not been a member of the faction for the past two years.

Following their explanations, Nika Machutadze, Nato Chkheidze, Rostom Chkheidze, and Bachuki Kardava collectively left the UNM faction.

The Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary, which brings together some 40 local civil society organizations, said on May 18 that it viewed negatively the election by the ruling party and some opposition MPs of Tristan Benashvili, Giorgi Gzobava, and Zurab Guraspashvili as non-judge members of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ).

Noting that “non-judge members of the Council should ensure the accountability of the judiciary to the public,” the Coalition stressed that interviews with the elected candidates showed that “they do not see the main challenges in the system. Therefore, their election to the Council cannot change the status quo and will strengthen the positions of the ‘clan’.”

“When trust in the judiciary is critically low, it was crucial to elect candidates who properly identify the main problem in the judicial system: clan-based governance,” the Coalition said, stressing that the appointment of impartial and competent candidates as non-judge members of the Council based on a broad political consensus is a part of the European Commission’s recommendations for Georgia.

“This decision is particularly alarming as it will damage the country’s European integration process. The political actors who supported the elected candidates do not have the real political will to improve the judicial system, nor the vision for fundamental reforms,” the statement reads.

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