The Daily Dispatch

The Daily Dispatch – July 21

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WALKING ON (EGG)SHELLS The new Azerbaijani Foreign Minister has to start relations with Tbilisi off the wrong foot, after Baku’s online magazine haqqin.az, – known to be close to the government – claimed Armenia received mortar rounds and MLRS Grad systems through Georgia. The Georgian MFA’s press and public information department says the report is “disinformation”, adding somewhat obliquely that it contained “multiple mistakes”. The Azerbaijani outlet amended its reports today, publishing photos of the Russian-made KAMAZ trucks, carrying no visible ammunition and with transit plates, allegedly taken on the Georgian-Armenian border. The magazine said these were “MLRS Grad launchers”. It also added that mortar rounds produced in Serbia were imported by air, through Georgia by Vectura Trans, a company affiliated with Slobodan Tesic, a notorious Serbian arms dealer, sanctioned by the US for embargo-busting. A US State Treasury Department report from 2019 mentions potential deals between Tesic and Armenia. It is unclear whether Haqqin is referring to this deal, or it is relying on some new data. All in all, bad and potentially harmful business all around.

APPEAL QUASHED The appeals court quashed the motion by the defense and upheld the 15 years imprisonment sentence against Mikheil Kalandia, the prime convict in a terrible teenage murder case that happened in December 2017 (as a teenager, he will serve 11). The investigation incompetence and an apparent cover-up in the “Khorava street murder” case sent political shockwaves through Georgia in 2018. Kalandia was arrested in June 2019, and convicted in the first instance, but the appeals case dragged for three months. Just as Georgia is reeling under the shock of yet another teenage fatality – apparently due to manslaughter – teenage violence, investigation’s flaws, and an apparent ability of the well-connected families to keep their offspring safe from the long arm of the law remain in sharp focus.

PEN-FRIENDS The Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili congratulated her EC consœur Ursula von der Leyen on passing the Covid-19 stimulus package. “Unanimity and solidarity that reinforces the EU is a signal of hope for us,” said Zurabishvili, calling Georgia an “EU Associated member state” – a French (?) turn of phrase that puts some fresh gilding on Georgia’s Association Agreement with the EU.

QUEUING Georgia’s chief epidemiologist Amiran Gamkhrelidze reassured the crowds that Georgia is talking to pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and with Gavi (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) to get the vaccine as soon as it hits the market. Sadly, after Dr. Gamkhelidze showed up at the Georgian Dream election shenanigan it is hard to fight a campaigning aftertaste…

BLOCKING Tbilisi municipality has kept the space before the Parliament building on Rustaveli avenue – stage to many a demonstration and a beating heart of Georgia’s popular democracy – fenced of for works for almost six months now. Mayor Kaladze blames the pandemic for delays, but premiered his new plan (screenshot below) – many opposition-minded Tbilisites balked at those chards of green as a blatant case of hostile architecture – designed to obstruct protests.

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