Irakli Kobakhidze’s statement on the Shovi tragedy caused anger in the society

Irakli Kobakhidze, the leader of the Georgian Dream party, responded to a social media post by Davit Jeladze, a survivor of the disaster. He mentioned that the details of a photo needed clarification, as he believed it was nearly impossible to cross between the banks at that location during the natural disaster.

Jeladze shared a picture from the disaster area on his Facebook account, explaining that he and his niece, Masho, had traversed the path from one bank to the other.

Kobakhidze stated, “The rationale for moving from one bank to another escapes me, considering that remaining on the original bank would have been safer. I visited the same area recently, and the conditions made it almost unfeasible to access that spot. Therefore, further verification is necessary regarding this photograph. The height of the landslide’s edges was low, allowing an exit from there. However, it was impractical for the large number of people present to do the same. Clarity is needed on the particulars of this image.”

Additionally, according to Kobakhidze, there were claims and misinformation circulating about a child struggling against the flood for three hours. Kobakhidze dismissed this as an utterly false account.

“There were rumours and falsehoods about, for instance, a child battling against the mud for three hours. This is a completely baseless fabrication. The events could not have unfolded in that manner. The disaster occurred suddenly, and unfortunately, those exposed to the mud had no chance of survival. To speak of someone contending with the disaster for three hours is a hollow fabrication,” said Irakli Kobakhidze.

Mikheil Sarjveladze, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights Protection, shared Kobakhidze’s perspective. He stated, “If an individual managed to survive on one side, the reasons for crossing the mud mass are unclear. Perhaps there is a specific rationale behind it.”

“The statement today deeply shook and devastated me. I feel highly offended. Each day, we held onto the hope of receiving a call or even a reassuring message. I woke up that morning… [Irakli Kobakhidze’s] statement today has shocked and shattered me. Everything I believed in and stood for now appears to be falsehoods, and I deceived everyone. My ability to express myself is compromised even now. I am greatly agitated and upset; I have never experienced such humiliation,” remarked Davit Jeladze, a survivor of the catastrophe.

In response to the assertion by Irakli Kobakhidze, Mariam Berianidze, who found herself in the midst of the landslide during the Shovi disaster, voiced her thoughts. She criticised the politician for dismissing the notion that a child fought against the flood for three hours. She recounted her own experience, detailing the immense struggle she and others faced for hours in the landslide.

Kobakhidze’s statement ignited a wave of anger among society, politicians, and the victims of the disaster.

Later, the chairman of the ruling party expressed his regret. He told the journalists that he talked on the phone and then met Jeladze.

The opposition has summoned the Minister of Internal Affairs, to address the Shovi disaster in a parliamentary interpellation

The largest opposition faction, “United National Movement,” has extended an invitation to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Vakhtang Gomelauri, to appear before the Georgian Parliament. This announcement was made by Tina Bokuchava, the faction’s chairperson, during a parliamentary briefing.

“We are formally requesting that Vakhtang Gomelauri, the Minister of Internal Affairs, participate in an interpellation session at the Georgian Parliament. Our official appeal to the Parliament has already been submitted, and as a result, the Parliament is obligated to convey these specific questions to the ministry,” she stated.

The faction seeks answers to several key questions:

  • “Why was the promised early warning system not established despite continuous assurances from high-ranking government officials?”
  • “What factors led to the delay in initiating the search and rescue operation?”
  • “Why did the Georgian government not seek assistance from neighbouring countries?”
  • “What is the current status of the available rescue equipment?”

The “United National Movement” faction is also considering the formation of a temporary investigative commission within the parliament. However, this requires the support of a total of 50 deputies’ votes, a number that cannot be attained without the cooperation of other opposition deputies.

The landslide events in Shovi transpired on August 3 at around 3:00 PM. A rescue helicopter was dispatched to the site approximately 3 hours after the initial notification. The operation led to the evacuation of over 200 individuals, the discovery of 26 deceased individuals, and the ongoing search for 7 more.

Vakhtang Gomelauri, the Interior Minister, offered his initial remarks on the Shovi disaster during a media interaction on August 13. He explained the reasons behind the non-use of helicopters on the night of August 3.

“Considerable risk is involved, so to speak. Unless an individual’s life is directly threatened at that moment, pilots are not permitted to take undue risks. Such actions are neither suitable nor authorised. In essence, it is not feasible,” stated the minister.

US Ambassador: We have been with Georgia for more than 30 years, we are not going anywhere

US Ambassador Kelly Degnan, who is nearing the conclusion of her term in Georgia, expressed her unwavering commitment to the country in an interview with Radio Liberty. She addressed the challenge posed by Russian and pro-Russian disinformation, aiming to undermine the strong partnership between the United States and Georgia.

“People in Georgia are accustomed to this type of Russian and pro-Russian disinformation, and I believe they can discern when attempts are made to erode Georgia’s bond with its closest and most sincere strategic allies… Our presence alongside Georgia has spanned more than three decades, and we remain steadfast. We stand by Georgia, supporting its journey towards a democratic future,” affirmed the Ambassador.

Throughout her tenure in Georgia, Kelly Degnan, unlike her predecessors, has often faced criticism from politicians. In response to a question from RFE/RL regarding the reason for this, she stated:

“Politicians often express what they feel they must, even if it strays from the truth. I do not take such critiques personally. What holds the greatest significance is the voice of the Georgian people, which has been unequivocal – they aspire towards a European future. This sentiment has been demonstrated on numerous occasions – in 2020, 2022, during the March demonstrations, with the ship incident, or even at The Killers’ concert last night. The desires of the Georgian people are quite evident. Equally apparent are the things they reject, which they have made clear repeatedly…”

“I am confident that our contributions in this nation are transparent. As I mentioned, throughout this country’s landscape, one can observe the evidence of the United States’ 30-year collaboration with Georgia, working hand in hand with both its government and its citizens. I am certain that this fruitful partnership will continue to flourish in the years to come,” concluded the ambassador.


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