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U.S. Ambassador Comments on Chiatura Protest

Ambassador Kelly Degnan said the U.S. Embassy is trying to facilitate a meeting of Shukruti village residents, being on a hunger strike outside the Embassy building, with the Public Defender’s Office and CSOs, “who can help them and work through their issues.”

The diplomat noted that the Human Rights Officer of the Embassy spoke with the protesters yesterday to hear out their concerns, which include mining activities by a contractor of Georgian Manganese damaging their homes in western Georgia’s Chiatura Municipality.

Ambassador Degnan said that although the U.S. does not have a “direct role” in the dispute, the Embassy can play a “connecting” role. “We want to make sure that they [protesters] are okay and also that their concerns are heard,” Ambassador Degnan added.

Protesting Shukruti residents arrived in the capital Tbilisi on May 30, to continue their more than 100-days-long protest outside the U.S. Embassy. Eight protesters overall, including three women, have sewed up their lips and went on a hunger strike gradually since May 11, according to media reports.

Arguing that neither local nor central Georgian authorities took interest in their grievances, Shukruti resident Giorgi Neparidze said the protesters hoped that the U.S. Ambassador would sympathize with their hardships. Many of us see that the authorities consider the U.S. envoy’s views, Neparidze argued.

Shukruti villagers allege that activities performed by a Georgian Manganese contractor, Shukruti+ company, lead to sinking soil and destruction of their living environment. Demands include fair compensation based on property value estimates carried out by the Levan Samkharauli National Forensics Bureau and for the state to be involved in the dispute between locals and the mining giant.

Georgian Manganese attempts at reaching a final agreement with all protesters have not yet proved successful, as the firm offered to allow the damage estimation under the condition that the dispute moves to court.

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