Our hearts are heavy with sorrow as we extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those affected by the tragic landslide in Resort Shovi. The loss of lives and the devastation caused by this natural disaster have left us deeply saddened.
Commemorating 15 Years since the Russia-Georgia 2008 War
7th of August marks the 15th year since the Russian-Georgian War that took place in Summer 2008. The conflict had a devastating impact on Georgia, resulting in the loss of lives and displacement of thousands of people.
During the war, Russia launched a military invasion, leading to intense hostilities and ethnic cleansing in the Tskhinvali region. As a consequence, over 30,000 people were forced to leave their homes, with their properties intentionally destroyed to prevent their return.
Despite the passage of time, the wounds from this war still resonate, as more than 20% of Georgia’s territory remains under Russian occupation. The affected communities continue to face human rights violations and restrictions on basic freedoms.
As we remember the sacrifices and losses endured during this conflict, it serves as a stark reminder of the importance of safeguarding international peace and sovereignty. Georgia continues to seek justice and a safe return for those displaced during this tragic chapter in history.
Deadly landslide in Racha: 21 Killed, 12 still missing
On August 3, a devastating landslide struck Resort Shovi in Racha, Georgia, resulting in the death of 21 people [as for 14:30, August 9], while the search for the missing individuals continues.
Based on reports from locals, it is believed that a significant portion of the mountain collapsed, severing access and causing destruction and damage to cottages and the surrounding area. The flood also washed away the road leading to Shovi.
In response to the disaster, helicopters and rescue teams have been actively engaged in rescue operations since the afternoon of August 3, although their efforts were halted after nightfall. In Shovi, where the landslide occurred, villagers and relatives of the missing individuals gathered to demand involvement in the search operations, but their request was refused.
Papuna Margvelidze, the Governor of Racha-Lechkhum-Kvemo Svaneti, reported that on August 4, a total of 210 people were transported to safety by helicopters.
Merab Gaprindashvili, the head of the Geology Department of the National Environment Agency, provided an explanation for the incident on August 3 in the Shovi resort of the Oni municipality. He attributed the tragedy to the simultaneous occurrence of geological and hydro-meteorological events in the valley of the Bubisskali River in Shovi. Such a disaster has been unprecedented in Western Georgia, excluding the earthquake of April 29, 1991, which struck the Racha-Imereti area and buried one of the villages.
Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, upon arriving in Oni, announced that August 7 will be declared a day of mourning in honour of the victims of the Shovi natural disaster.
The international community has also expressed its condolences and support. The Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Azerbaijan, as well as the Embassies European Union, the USA, Turkey, Sweden, Ukraine, the Holy See, and Finland in the South Caucasus have responded to the tragedy.
Georgian PM visits China
On July 27, Georgia’s Prime Minister, Irakli Gharibashvili, embarked on a visit to China along with a delegation. Upon his arrival at Chengdu International Airport, he was welcomed by Chinese Minister of Education Huai Jinpeng, Governor of Sichuan Province Huang Qiang, Chinese Ambassador to Georgia Zhou Qian, and Georgian Ambassador to China Archil Kalandia.
The following day, July 28, Gharibashvili held important meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Premier of the State Council of China Li Qiang, and President of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Jin Liqun. Additionally, he visited the Huawei demonstration center and participated in the unveiling of Shota Rustaveli’s statue at Beijing Language and Culture University.
During the visit, Gharibashvili expressed Georgia’s high regard for China’s significant role in the global economy and its contributions to global development and progress. He acknowledged China’s dynamic growth, innovation, and commitment to international cooperation, which position it as a key partner in addressing global challenges and promoting prosperity. The Prime Minister also voiced Georgia’s support for President Xi’s global initiatives, including the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative.
Both parties issued a joint statement affirming their strategic partnership and signed several memorandums of understanding and bilateral agreements.
The main focus of discussions between Prime Minister Gharibashvili and Premier Li Qiang was on enhancing strategic partnership and cooperation in trade and economics. Georgia considers China a reliable trade partner, ranking third among its largest trade partners. Notably, the implementation of the free trade agreement with China resulted in trade volume reaching 2 billion dollars in 2022.
They also discussed Georgia’s transit potential and the significance of the “Middle Corridor.” This route, comprising the Trans-Caspian and South Caucasus international transport routes, efficiently connects China with Europe.
Furthermore, the parties explored regional initiatives in the energy and infrastructure sectors, aiming to strengthen the South Caucasus region’s role as a crucial link between East and West.
Politicians assess establishment of Strategic Partnership between Georgia and China
The visit of Georgia’s Prime Minister, Irakli Gharibashvili, to China and the establishment of a strategic partnership between the two countries have drawn critical assessment from both international partners and representatives of opposition parties in Georgia.
MEP Viola von Kramon expressed concern about Georgia’s decision to deepen economic ties with China and its potential implications. She pointed out that while many countries are seeking economic independence from China, Georgia appears to be taking a different approach, which she finds ironic given the European context.
US Ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan, acknowledged that it is Georgia’s prerogative to decide its relationship with China, but she cautioned that some countries have distanced themselves from the Belt and Road Initiative after observing its limited benefits. She expressed hope that if Georgia chooses to engage with the initiative, it would lead to positive outcomes.
Former Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger strongly criticised Prime Minister Gharibashvili’s visit to China, stating that it harms the nation of Georgia without providing further elaboration.
Within Georgia, opposition politicians also expressed their concerns about the visit.
Mikheil Daushvili from the “For Georgia” party emphasized that while Georgia enjoys the privilege of having free trade agreements with both China and the European Union, a strategic partnership with China might inadvertently strain relations with existing strategic partners like the European Union and the United States.
Tamaz Datunashvili, a member of the “Lelo for Georgia” party, criticized the visit as a move that could sabotage Georgia’s EU membership aspirations and Western integration efforts. He raised concerns about the feasibility of a strategic partnership with China, particularly given the country’s role as a significant financial supporter of Russia and its involvement in Russia’s actions against Ukraine.
A demonstration against the arrival of the Russian cruise liner was held in Batumi
On July 31, a demonstration took place in Batumi port against the arrival of a Russian cruise liner named ASTORIA GRANDE. The ship was carrying participants of a cruise organised by the Russian Music Channel and had left the port of Sochi on July 29, entering Batumi from Trabzon, Turkey.
The protesters were expressing their opposition to the presence of artists who openly support Russia’s war against Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin, some of whom were onboard the cruise ship. Notably, the cruise offered Russian tourists a trip with the stars of the TV channel RU.TV.
Among the artists on the cruise was former Hi-Fi soloist Mitya Fomin, who had previously participated in a propagandistic marathon in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
Prior to the ship’s arrival, the protest began, and the police erected barricades in the Batumi harbour. According to preliminary reports, five participants of the demonstration were arrested the previous night, although the Ministry of Internal Affairs has not provided official information yet.
The ship ASTORIA GRANDE, flying the flag of Palau, is operated by the Turkish cruise company Miray Cruises International and arrived in Batumi harbour on July 27.
Members of Ruling party viewed the protest as a provocation. MP Guram Macharashvili emphasized the need to differentiate between tourists entering the country by various means and criticized the alleged attempt to provoke unrest.
Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze argued that the protest was hypocritical and directed against Georgia and its economy. He questioned the need for such demonstrations against tourists spending money in the country, which ultimately contributes to Georgia’s economy.