State Security Service Head: Russian Occupation is Georgia’s Biggest Problem

Head of the State Security Service (SSS) of Georgia, Vakhtang Gomelauri, stated that Russian occupation of Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Tskhinvali) regions is the most acute problem facing the country.

Gomelauri made the statement on Wednesday while presenting a report in Parliament on the activities carried out by the Service last year. The sitting was followed by a closed Q&A session.

“The situation in the occupied territories and the frequent violation of fundamental human rights are major challenges that determine the agenda of the SSS. The situation in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions demonstrates that the Russian Federation is implementing a gradual annexation policy in these regions. A clear example of this is the creation of a joint "information-coordination center" of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia and the de facto Ministry of Internal Affairs in the occupied region of Abkhazia," Gomelauri said.

He stressed that during the past year, Russian occupation forces have carried out more than 100 illegal military exercises in the occupied territories, “endangering not only Georgia but the entire South Caucasus region's security environment.”

“Discrimination against ethnic Georgians living in the occupied territories and illegal detentions still continue. Free movement and access to education in the native language are restricted. The illegal process of ‘borderization’ continues. In the reporting period, the State Security Service regularly monitored the occupied territories and the situation along the occupation line, in order to neutralize threats coming from the occupied territories. In this direction, we actively cooperate with state agencies and international partners," said Gomelauri.

The SSS Head also spoke about 35-year-old Archil Tatunashvili, who died in a detention facility in breakaway Tskhinvali on February 23 in unclear circumstances.

“We are doing our best to clarify who was involved and who participated in the murder,” Gomelauri said, noting the SSS does everything in its power to fight Russian propaganda.

He noted the special services of certain countries are trying to create anti-Western sentiments in Georgia.

“Every country, including Russia, has its own interests and its own intelligence service designed to work abroad in favor of their country. It’s normal. However, some of them are carrying out harmful and damaging activities on the territory of other countries,” Gomelauri stated.

He also claimed that despite the attempted terrorist attack in November 2017, which was successfully prevented by the SSS and other law enforcement agencies, Georgia still maintains the status of a country with low terrorist threat. He added that after the active work of the SSS, the influence of the Islamic State has significantly reduced in the country.

By Thea Morrison

19 April 2018 20:27