PM Does Not Rule Out Chance Recent Fires Started by Destructive Forces

While speaking before a Government Administration meeting on 29 August, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili did not rule out the possibility that the cause of the wildfires which broke out in multiple locations across the country in the past few days are attempts at “diversion” by “destructive inner” forces.

The Prime Minister’s statement followed several fires breaking out in the country over the past 10 days. Since 19 August, different government agencies have been involved in trying to extinguish a forest fire in Borjomi Municipality. According to the latest update on 28 August, the process of extinguishing the fires in Borjomi is at the final stage. Yesterday 4 fires also broke out in Tbilisi and surrounding areas.

“Since we know the nature of the destructive forces operating inside the country, their subversive tendencies, nothing can be ruled out. Therefore, the investigation should work in all directions, it should give a comprehensive answer to all possibilities,” PM Garibashvili emphasized.

According to the Prime Minister, the fact that the fires occurred in several places at the same time raises questions, but he added that “[Vakhtang] Gomelauri’s agency [the Ministry of Internal Affairs] managed this crisis very effectively.” The PM also called on citizens to be “a little more” careful and responsible.

He also thanked neighboring Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for their help in extinguishing the fire and underscored that “we appreciate it very much and Georgians will not forget this assistance.”

“As soon as he [President Erdoğan] received our request for assistance, he immediately gave the order and in just one hour, 3 planes were sent,” the PM denoted.

New Helicopters to be Purchased

Prime Minister Garibashvili announced that the Ministry of Internal Affairs is working on purchasing 3 new helicopters, “despite the fact that all [existing] helicopters are in absolutely good condition.”

The PM highlighted that the country has “one expensive luxury helicopter” bought during the previous government, which he claimed was purchased for ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili. “It was our decision that no one used this helicopter,” he added.

Regarding “speculation” that “this helicopter can be used for rescue operations,” the PM said such talk “are lies.”

“We have made a decision to return the helicopter to its manufacturing plant, that is, we will sell it and instead buy 3 new helicopters, which will be useful for us in rescue operations and for various other operations,” the PM explained.

PM Garibashvili also emphatically stated that active negotiations on the issue are already underway and that the Minister of Finance, Lasha Khutsishvili is involved.

Significantly, the current government first start talking about the sale of two Super Puma helicopters purchased by the previous government in 2013. At the time, however, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development said that the price paid for them was so high that it is difficult to find potential buyers with well-known dealers on the international market unwilling to buy them in that price range. 

In 2017, Ioseb Arjevanishvili, an aviation pilot for the border police of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), told journalists that the MIA first planned to convert the helicopters into rescue helicopters but when that failed, they became involved in negotiations to trade one of the Super Pumas for a rescue helicopter. 

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