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Temporary zones of particular care


Lado Bitchashvili, Shida Kartli

The member of the previous convocation parliament from Georgian Dream Soso Vakhtangashvili lobbied enrollment of the villages alongside the occupation line into the temporary zones of particular care. Today, he says that the government did not implement his program as a result of what people in those villages cope with hard social-economic conditions and safety problems. 

Humanrights.ge interviewed Soso Vakhtangashvili about the current situation, threats and challenges in the ABL villages. 

-Mr. Soso, what was the aim of your program, what procedures did it undergo? Why did not the government support it, regardless the fact that you were the member of the ruling party? 

-The initiative specifically referred to the conflict zones not only in Shida Kartli, but also in Abkhazia and Samegrelo. Our proposal had two components: first contained the issues of safety and the second – economic rehabilitation. As for the safety issues, we offered the Government of Georgia, namely the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which was in charge of this project, to carry out video-surveillance alongside the entire perimeter of the division line.
-Why does the government refrain from installing the cameras?

- There were many instruments and technologies to prevent kidnapping of our citizens, or at least video-record those facts. 90% of the people, who were kidnapped to Tskhinvali, were telling me that they were not kidnapped in the northern part of the division line but from the Georgia-controlled territory. It was the key component of my initiative – to reinforce safety through non-violent methods.
-As for the economic part of the program which concrete fields were reflected in it?

-The economic part aimed first: to supply all villages with gas and water; to implement various projects, to make healthcare and educational services available for local people, who live alongside the division line. Reduction of migration was and still is the key objective. I do not exclude that besides political or non-political interests of kidnappings, the Russian Federation aimed to compel the locals to abandon the villages as it will be easier to control the empty villages and move the barbwires deep inside the Georgia-controlled territory. 

-What is the difference between your initiative and mountainous zone status? 

-Unfortunately, there are villages Kere and few more, whose inhabitants were promised to get the status of mountainous village but in vain. Many ABL villages are without this status. As for the difference, my project could cover larger zone. It did not include only those benefits, which are available for the mountainous zone; it aimed to introduce other benefits to meet the needs of concrete settlements. Unfortunately, like many other initiatives, neither this initiative was considered. 

-Whom did you present this initiative and what was their answer?

-It was submitted to temporary commission, which was established to discuss the issues related to the conflict zones and it was chaired by the State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality and Minister of Infrastructure; at that time the ministries were Paata Zakareishvili and Nodar Javakhishvili, relatively. The commission considered the initiative but then the ministries were replaced; I met the ministries too. Based on my petition, the Prime Minister organized a special session, where the issue of Nadarbazevi water reservoir was discussed as the people cannot get water supply from Tskhinvali. So it was important to rehabilitate the reservoir in Nadarbazevi village. I made very critical statement during the meeting and they promised to work on the issue. 

They had to create relevant structures, which would have studied the problems and found solutions; unfortunately, there was no more reaction to my initiative. 
They did some job but it is not enough; the people in the ABL villages have many more problems. 

-However, you still offer the government to implement your idea…

-Of course I do! We also had very good project - football club “Tskhinvali Liakhvi.” We managed to enroll ethnic Ossetian football players from Tskhinvali and they were playing together with Georgian team-mates. The project was quite successful but finally it finished because of negligence and naivety of the government, when they stopped funding of the club and all achievements were wasted. We also had many plans with regard to Tskhinvali, like cultural-educational programs. Unfortunately, we started implementation of all ideas except one but finally the main part of the initiative was left beyond attention. We had some progress in economic component but the safety part of the initiative was left without attention.   
During closed meetings, the government representatives say that if they install cameras it will be recognition of the so-called border. I have never heard such nonsense before. The video camera is not border equipment and we need them to combat the violence against our citizens. They kidnap people and take them to detention settings in Tskhinvali. I will be the first opponent of those people, who made similar statements. 

If we want to defend the safety on our controlled-territory and combat kidnapping of people, we first of all, shall control our territories with video-cameras. 

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