Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili visiting a wounded officer, November 22, 2017. Photo: gov.ge
In his first and only statement following the November 22 anti-terrorist operation in Tbilisi, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said “our heroes have neutralized the threat that could have ended with detrimental consequences.”
“It is safe to move in the city, and there are no grounds for security concerns at all,” PM Kvirikashvili noted.
PM Kvirikashvili made these remarks after visiting the wounded Georgian security forces servicemen in a hospital together with Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia and State Security Service Head Vakhtang Gomelauri.
Kvirikashvili expressed his condolences to the family of the deceased serviceman, calling him “a true hero,” and wished speedy recovery to the wounded.
He also responded to the criticism voiced by some public and political party representatives about the location, length and lack of official information on the operation. “I would like to urge everyone to abstain from such speculations,” he said. “The priority was to protect the safety of our population, our citizens, and everything was done to avoid casualties.”
Kvirikashvili also noted that “the members of a criminal group were not identified today; there was a preliminary information, and they were tracked down thanks to this preliminary work.” The Prime Minister also added that “their ethnicities and citizenship do not matter at all, and we should not emphasize their citizenship.”
“The fact of the matter is, they opened fire in response to the police request to surrender peacefully. Consequently, there was a doubt that much worse could have followed, so the actions of the special operations forces and the State Security Service were absolutely legitimate and correct,” he added.
Vakhtang Gomelauri, head of the State Security Service, who spoke after Kvirikashvili, called the suspects “a serious group” and pointed out that there was a threat of them taking civilian hostages. Gomelauri refrained from specifying the identities of the suspects citing interests of investigation.
When asked whether these persons were terrorists, he responded: “If we look at what happened today, we can say without hesitation that they committed a terrorist act in Georgia [by] being engaged in around 18-hour fighting against the Georgian law enforcement.”
Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia commented on the issue on November 23, calling on the public to wait for the results of the investigation, adding that “we all understand very well that we are dealing with a fact of international terrorism.”