Presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili delivered his New Year address from the village of Chkhalta in the Tbilisi-controlled upper Kodori Gorge in breakaway Abkhazia.
Saakashvili was the only presidential candidate whose New Year message was aired live on Georgian TV – just before New Year. It was followed by addresses by the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II, and acting President Nino Burjanadze.
“From this illuminated village of Chkhalta we are overlooking the still destroyed and empty Sokhumi,” Saakashvili said. “I want to salute our compatriots in Gali and I want to tell them that we are witnessing your unprecedented heroism these days. I want to tell you my brothers and sisters: do not be afraid of anything; if you aren’t allowed on this side [meaning on Georgina-controlled territory in Zugdidi where Gali residents can cast their ballots for the January 5 election], we will soon arrive at your homes. I want to tell internally displaced persons from Abkhazia: I know that your houses are not in Tskaltubo [western Georgia] or in Tskneti [outside Tbilisi, where many IDPs currently live]; your homes are in Gulripshi and Sokhumi [both in breakaway Abkhazia]; very soon your surroundings in Tbilisi Sea [Tbilisi water reservoir where many IDPs also live] will be changed to the seaside towns of Bichvinta and Ochamchire [both in Abkhazia]. We will achieve this all together… I want to say happy New Year to all ethnic groups in Georgia. Ethnic minorities are an integral part of one unique group – the Georgian people.”