Gigi Ugulava, the Mayor of Tbilisi and an influential figure within the Saakashvili’s administration, testified before the parliamentary commission studying the August war on November 12.
Below are key points of Ugulava’s testimony:
- I received information that situation was getting extremely tense on August 6; at that time I was not in Tbilisi and I returned in the evening on the same day;
- I met with President Saakashvili at 3am [on August 7]; we again met on August 7 at 1pm and the meeting was also attended by other senior officials including Interior Minister, Vano Merabishvili, who briefed us about the situation in South Ossetia, in particular about the movement of the Russian forces in the Roki Tunnel, but at that point it was difficult to specify whether it was a regular forces of the Russian army or not;
- On the same day I participated in a meeting involving Davit Tkeshelashvili [the state minister for regional issues] and provincial governors;
- After that meeting I departed to Gori; at that time situation was extremely worsened; it was the time when President Saakashvili announced about unilateral ceasefire. Ugulava said that the President instructed him to go into Gori, because the Tbilisi municipality sent there its ambulance and firefighting vehicles.
- By late August 7 there were all signs of Russia’s open intervention;
- the Georgian villages were under threat of cleansing; it was not possible at that point to predict the scale of intervention; but the amount of armament and hardware coming into South Ossetia from Russia was indicating that cleansing of the Georgian villages was planned;
- At 11:30pm the President gave three orders to the chief of staff of the armed forces and the Ministry of Defense: to stop Russian military coming into Georgia; to suppress firing positions from where the Georgian positions and the Georgian villages were fired; to protect interests and security of the civilian population;
- There have been widespread allegations about Ugulava interfering in the military issues by giving orders to the military officials. Ugulava has denied that and said: I was only once in the military headquarters [in charge of the military operations] and only for five minutes; this headquarters was not inside Gori, it was in the vicinity of Gori;
- On August 9, when the combat activities reached peak, Dimitri Sanakoev [head of the Tbilisi-backed South Ossetian provisional administration] approached me and Interior Minister [Vano Merabishvili] and told us that he was contacted by many people, both Ossetians and Georgians, requesting for a humanitarian corridor to let them out [of the war theater]. We have passed this information on to the President and 30 minutes later the President instructed [Zaza] Gogava [at that time he was military chief of staff] to take measures and also phoned me and told me to announce about the humanitarian corridor; it was decided by the President to make that humanitarian corridor for two hours - between 3pm and 5pm; It was not a full ceasefire – low intensity fire was still ongoing, but heavy fighting was not ongoing, which enabled people to leave [the area].
- Ugulava said that the authorities refrained from calling on the people to leave Tbilisi, because to avert panic in the capital city, which could have triggered even more troubles.
- There were 50 aircraft flying over Tbilisi at some point – which was a threat for the Tbilisi residents; some of the air strikes were carried out in Tbilisi as well, but as it turned out later they [the Russian forces] were maximally trying not to hit the civilian targets in Tbilisi. Ugulava also said that underground stations were ready to shelter the Tbilisi residents in case of need.
- There were some signs of panic in Tbilisi, but there was no major panic; we have instructed our staff in the municipality to go out in the streets and to tell the people that there was no reason for panic.