The Daily Dispatch

The Daily Dispatch – 22 May

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Covid Curfew ends tonight — Orthodox Church gets forest rights —- Open Skies no more? U.S. threatens to pull out over Russian intransigence — Justice Minister is Disappointed – Diplomatic reshuffle

COVID CURFEW LIFTED FROM TONIGHT As the state of emergency expires at midnight, the 21:00-06:00 curfew will also be lifted. Many restrictions will remain in force – restaurants and cafes are still closed to visitors, public transport does not run, hotels remain closed until further notice. The state of emergency was declared on 21 March to stem the spread of the virus.

Our team has been live-blogging about Covid-19, and you’ve been reading it. Thank you for your trust!

COVID IS OUT, CHURCH FORESTS ARE IN On May 22, the Georgian Parliament endorsed the amendments to the Forest Code saying the Georgian Orthodox Church may claim to own up to 20 hectares of forest located around its many churches and monasteries. This shall be done upon request and “through mediation of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture”. The Law enters into force from 2021. The CSOs have been in uproar, saying this violates the separation of church and state, gives GOC discriminatory advantage over other confessions, and may infringe on villager’s tilling rights. The government says the Church will have to protect the forests. Many wonder, why the government is showing largess to the institution that so recently defied its emergency powers. Cynics retort – look no further than the election schedule…

OPEN SKIES NO MORE? Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a statement on May 21 that the U.S. will pull out from the Treaty on Open Skies (OST), an arms control regime, in six months time if Russia does not desist from “flagrant and continuous violation” of the international agreement, including by not allowing “observation flights within a 10-kilometer corridor” along its border with occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia as well as Ukraine’s Crimea. There has not been much in-depth commentary on what this might mean for Georgia… Before 2008 war, the Open Skies flights were used to monitor Russian deployments in and around Gudauta military base, which Moscow pledged to vacate, but built into a bridgehead instead.

DO YOU LISTEN TO GEORGIANS’ HEARTBEAT? Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani thinks insufficiently so. Referring to the missives of criticism (here and here) she told Rustavi-2 TV that Georgia’s Western partners don’t take time to check Georgians’ mood. Which Ms. Tsulukiani said she deeply regrets. She also slammed President Zurabishvili for pardoning Mr. Okruashvili and Mr. Ugulava – “odious figures” – and swore “on all sacred relics” that their release was not the part of 8 March agreement with the opposition.

DIPLOMATIC INS AND OUTS Georgian State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili don the Ambassadorial robes – she will be moving to Vienna to represent Georgia at the OSCE, other international organizations headquartered there, and with the Austrian State.

Amb. Aleksandre Maisuradze and Amb. Viktor Dolidze will swap their positions: Amb. Maisuradze will head to Geneva as the representative to the UN agencies, while Mr. Dolidze will go to Brussels, as Georgia’s envoy to NATO.

And while we’re still at MFA: Vladimir Konstantinidi, former spokesperson, got a position bump and will be replacing Mikheil Ninua, who resigned on May 8, as Deputy Foreign Minister.


THIS DAY IN HISTORY: On 21 May 1920 the Georgian Democratic Republic successfully repelled an attempt of the Soviet Red Army to invade from the side of Azerbaijani border. The conflict started shortly after the Soviets took Baku – almost unopposed – on 27 April 1920. The Georgian government mobilized reserves already on 29 April. On 2 May, Bolsheviks made an attempt at capturing the Military College and its arms supplies in Tbilisi, but were repelled, arrested, tried and several of them promptly executed. By 6 May, the Georgian troops have engaged the enemy at the Red Bridge (also the current border point). By 21 May, the Georgian Army and the National Guard have gained considerable advantage. The Soviet Government in Baku sued for peace.

The history page is brought to you by Republic-100 – our project which tries to restore the memory of the Georgian Democratic Republic by looking into the news archives. We are grateful to Friedrich Ebert Stiftung for their committed support, and to the EWMI-ACCESS for seeing a potential for growth.

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