U.S. Ambassador Comments on Crimea Bridge Explosion, People Power

While speaking with journalists at an event for graduates of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies Training Seminar, U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan commented on the explosion which took place on the Crimea bridge on 8 October and stated that “there’s a lot of speculation about the whole incident and to the extent that it has set back Russia’s brutal attacks against the Ukrainians.”

“Obviously, that is important,” she underscored but the Amb. added that “in terms of what happened with this truck, I don’t think anybody has that information.”

Following the explosion on the Crimea bridge connecting Russia and Ukraine, Russia’s FSB announced that Kirill Budanov, the head of the main intelligence division of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, as well as his employees and agents, orchestrated the explosion on the bridge. In a convoluted telling of events, they allege that the explosive device used in the incident was transported to its destination through Georgia with the assistance of Georgian, Ukrainian, Armenian, and Russian citizens. The Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Aleksandre Darakhvelidze, and Deputy Finance Minister, Giorgi Kakauridze, both denied the accusations of the FSB.

Ambassador Degnan stressed that the U.S. works “closely with Georgia’s customs, immigration, coast guard, and border patrol. We have worked with these agencies for decades now, trying to build their capacity and helping them defend their borders to deter Russian aggression and we will continue to do so.”

People Power

Asked about continued letters addressed to her from leaders of the anti-Western offshoot of the Georgian Dream party, the People Power movement, which question the U.S.’s role in Georgia, Amb. Degnan emphasized, “We have been very clear, consistent, and transparent about why the United States cares about Georgia and what the United States has been doing here.”

She remarked that for 30 years, “regardless of the party in power” the U.S. has helped Georgia be more secure, defend its borders, develop the economy, improve the education and healthcare systems, and build its democratic institutions.

Amb. Degnan noted that Georgia was already a “very progressive democracy in 1918 and you are now picking that up again.” “The United States has been supporting Georgia’s efforts to build those democratic institutions, not only because that is what the vast majority of Georgians want, [but] it’s also necessary to bring Georgia closer to the European Union, which should be the focus of all of Georgia’s Members of Parliament,” she added.

In that context, the U.S. Ambassador reiterated that political leaders should be doing “absolutely everything they can to accomplish European candidate status for this country.”

“Georgia has done so much and accomplished so much,” she underscored. “The next step is within reach, but Georgia’s leaders need to have a hundred percent focus on accomplishing that for the people of Georgia.” “That’s what the United States is focused on, helping Georgia: we know that’s what the people of Georgia care about most,” Amb. Degnan concluded.

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