Bidzina Ivanishvili, leader of the opposition Georgian Dream coalition, said on September 9, that “tragedy” of Lopota gorge in which three Georgian special service personnel and eleven suspected militants died in a clash close to the Russian border would be investigated and those responsible punished.
He made the remarks while addressing a large outdoor campaign rally in Telavi, the main town of eastern region of Kakheti, a day after the ruling United National Movement party held its large scale outdoor gathering in Telavi as part of its day-long series of campaign rallies in eleven towns.
“We have all seen during a tragedy close to Lapankuri village [in Telavi municipality] of Lopota gorge that a human life means nothing for this government,” Ivanishvili said. “Georgian troops died there; Georgian citizens, Kists died there and North Caucasians died there too. This is not a Georgian dream; this can’t be a Georgian dream.”
After initial denial, the Interior Ministry confirmed on September 3 that two of eleven gunmen killed in a clash with the Georgian troops on August 29 were Georgian citizens from Pankisi gorge – an area in north eastern Georgia populated by Kists, ethnic Chechens of Georgian citizenship.
“We do not know what really happened there [in Lopota gorge], so I am not going to make a political assessment,” Ivanishvili said. “But what we know for sure is that people fell victim to those events; wasn’t it possible to tackle that situation without loss of life?”
“What we also know for sure is that the authorities were insolently lying from the very first day of the operation in Lopota gorge, when they were claiming that they were fighting against a squad of saboteurs, infiltrated from Russia,” he said, adding that the authorities were also “lying” when initially denying that there were Georgian citizens among gunmen killed in the operation.
“I want our Kists, our compatriots and relatives of those who have died to know that we will not leave this tragedy without investigation; we will find out everything and we promise that culprits will not be left unpunished,” Ivanishvili said and asked the rally for a moment of silence for fallen Georgian troops..
In his speech during the rally in Telavi, Ivanishvili also said that the upcoming parliamentary elections on October 1 would be “decisive” for Georgia’s future.
“On October 1 entire power will be in the hands of people and use it wisely. Future of the country depends on this day; this is a decisive day and if we fail to use this day, next day will already be late for everything,” he said.
“We should win by a large margin in order to end everything without any additional prolongations,” Ivanishvili said, adding that “we should not need going out into the streets.”
Addressing the issue of wine production – Kakheti region is home to over 60% of Georgian vineyards, Ivanishvili said that in case of coming into power he would manage to reopen Russian market for the Georgian wine, which was closed down by Moscow in 2006.
“We will definitely reopen Russian market [for the Georgian wines], which is essential for the Georgian wine and for its revival,” Ivanishvili said.
He said that Georgian Dream plans to hold next large outdoor campaign rally in Akhaltsikhe on September 15.