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Georgian PM sacks his Minister of Defense

Ex Defense Minister Irakli Alasania with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
Ex Defense Minister Irakli Alasania with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili announced on Tuesday that he had dismissed the Minister of Defense Irakli Alasania, Georgian Civil.ge reported on Tuesday.

According to the government statement, Alasania will be replaced by Mindia Janelidze who was the Secretary of State Security and Crisis Management.

The tension between Alasania and Garibashvili was simmering for some time. The removal of the minister came a few hours after Alasania’s statement that the recent developments involving arrests of the ministry officials and members of the General Staff, and charges against army medical officers are politically motivated and are allegedly an “attack on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice.”

Irakli Alasania who has previously held posts overseas is regarded as one of the strong proponents of Georgia’s choice for Euro-Atlantic integration. Garibashvili slammed Alasania’s remarks on accusation of the government as “completely irresponsible.”

“Violations revealed in the Ministry of Defense and related investigation have become a topic of active discussions in the public in recent days. Issue of procurements in the Ministry of Defense became topic of discussion of our government more than once over which ex-Defense Minister Alasania has been given censure and instructions. Despite of that investigative agencies have exposed whole set of violations and relevant legal reaction was made through launching criminal investigation. In recent days an obvious confrontation by the Defense Minister is being observed against the investigative agencies and there is an attempt to politicize the issue. Instead of contributing to the investigation in order to help establish objective truth into the case, Irakli Alasania’s actions are causing politicization of the Defense Ministry and of the armed forces, which is categorically inadmissible for me and which affects negatively on our country’s security and government’s efficient work,” PM Garibashvili said.

“We have stated for multiple times that fighting corruption is one of the priorities of our government and we are and will be uncompromising in case of exposing such facts no matter which agency or minister is involved – this is our principled position,” Garibashvili said.

“In order to avoid politicization of the Georgian armed forces and the politicization of the Georgian Ministry of Defense and in order to provide relevant conditions for an independent investigation, I have decided to dismiss the Defense Minister,” he said.

“Alasania’s irresponsible statement that this investigation in the ministry is an attack on country’s Euro-Atlantic choice, is completely irresponsible.”

“I want to reiterate once again what I have said for multiple times already that our country’s Euro-Atlantic integration is the choice of not only of our government by the choice of our people and this process is and will be irreversible,” the PM said.

“Georgian government’s foreign policy course, which involves the Euro-Atlantic integration does not and will never depend on any single minister’s position or opinion. So [Alasania’s] statement was completely irresponsible,” Garibashvili said.

“I had a meeting yesterday with [lawmakers from Alasania’s] Free Democrats faction, which is a member of the [GD ruling] coalition. I had a very open conversation with them and in their presence I asked Alasania questions, which were coming from the prosecutor’s office, and which I, as the Prime Minister, also have, but I have not yet received any reasoned answer, except of his abstract opinions and groundless responses,” Garibashvili said.

“I also want to state that our country’s Euro-Atlantic integration does not mean that alleged misspending of GEL 4 million should be taking place in the Ministry of Defense,” he said, referring to charges which have been filed against one former and four serving MoD and general staff officials, who were arrested on October 28.

Then referring to newly filed charges against other general staff officials from the medical service, who are accused of alleged negligence in cases of servicemen’s foodborne illnesses last year, Garibashvili said: “The minister who fails to solve the issue of food for soldiers for two years [since Alasania was the defense minister] of course cannot be considered as an efficient minister and he would have definitely been dismissed anyway even for that reason only.”

“And the minister, who purportedly was awarding his friends with tender and procurement [contracts] of course could not have stayed on this very responsible post,” Garibashvili said.

The PM said that the Georgian Dream ruling coalition will hold a meeting of its main decision-making body, political council, on Wednesday, and also invited at the meeting Alasania and his Free Democrats party, which formally still remains part of the GD coalition.

“Alasania and his party, as a member of the coalition, have all the rights to attend the meeting of political council and I want to say that I want to also convene an expanded meeting of the political council and I want Free Democrats parliamentary faction members to also attend this meeting,” Garibashvili said.

Alasania said late on November 4 that he would be attending GD’s political council meeting on Wednesday.

Mindia Janelidze, 36, whom the PM said would replace Alasania on the post of the Defense Minister, is not a political figure and is relatively little known to wider public. He has served as the Director of the Counter-Intelligence Department at the Ministry of Interior since late 2012 when now PM Garibashvili held the post of the Interior Minister.

Georgia’s choice to join NATO after the Russian-Georgian war in August 2008 has since been more pronounced in the efforts of the government. The annexation of Crimea to Russia and further developments in Eastern Ukraine have increased fears among Georgians that Russia may strengthen its positions in post-Soviet countries by legitimizing its de-facto military presence via annexing breakaway territories or instigating new separatist tendencies in multiethnic states like Georgia.

However, with no clear action plan and commitment by NATO to support either Georgia or Ukraine, these countries are in no position to aggravate Moscow.

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