Ethnic clashes in Tsalka (Georgia): police used force

MAR 10, 2006

As REGNUM already informed , on March 9, at about 06:00 p.m. local time, in the city of Tsalka (regional center of Kvemo-Kartli Region, Georgia) an armed attack was held against a group of young ethnic Armenians. The attack was committed in the city's center, when the company departed from a restaurant. When they were getting into a car, unidentified people suddenly attacked them, dragged out of the car and started beating them. As witnesses and one of the victims said, there were about 15 attackers, some of them armed with cold steel. As a result of the attack, 23-year-old Gevorg Gevorkyan was injured with a knife and died at the scene. V. Saakyan , 25, was wounded in the leg, K. Baloyan , 25, seven hours later was delivered to hospital in Tbilisi with a severe wound. After the attack the criminals escaped.

As Javakh news agency “A-Info” informs, police arrested three suspects that are currently interrogated. About 300 Armenians gathered near the police building, who demand fair punishment to the murderers. The protesters have broke several windows in the police building. As a response, the Georgian SWAT that arrived from Tbilisi drove the protesters back, brutally beating them with machine guns and batons. Currently, police building is surrounded by SWAT.

According to Armenian MP of Tsalka region Hayk Militinyan , 150 people were hurt during the clash between police and the protesters.

The victims say, they do know the reasons of the attack. As they think, a group of Adjarian or Svani settlers attacked them. All victims are from the same village, Kushi (Tsalka region). According to eye-witnesses, some time later, all the entrances to the city of Tsalka from the side of Armenian villages were blocked by units of special forces deployed in the region. Other ways, including the road leading to the capital were open.

Conflicts in Tsalka region are often because of Armenian and Greek communities that live there along with Georgians, who moved there from Ajaria and Svanetia after ecological catastrophes, and occupied empty houses of local citizens, who emigrated or were temporarily abroad. Such illegal intrusion into private property along with increase of crime level in the area because of immigration cause indignation of local residents.

Similar conflict existed earlier. Largest confrontation took place on May 9, 2005 when in conflict between Armenians and Georgians around 30 people were wounded. Such incident cause Georgian authorities to deploy the national guard in the region, but positive effect of this action is highly questioned by local population.