The Georgian Ministry of Defense expressed condolences over death of a Georgian national in battle in eastern Ukraine and said in a statement that “representatives of former authorities” of Georgia are to be blamed for his death, because they are encouraging Georgians to fight in Ukraine.
32-year-old Alexandre Grigolashvili, who fought on the Ukrainian side in east of the country under nom de guerre “Chuzhoy”, was killed in the town of Shchastya in the Luhansk region on December 19.
“We want to stress that full responsibility for the death of Alexandre Grigolashvili lies with representatives of previous authorities, who are calling on the Georgian citizens to take part in military operations outside of our country. The Ministry of Defense has noted for more than once that such calls are irresponsible and aim at misleading active and former servicemen of the Georgian armed forces,” the Georgian MoD said in the statement on December 20.
“The Georgian Ministry of Defense calls on the citizens not to yield to provocation and not to endanger own lives in exchange of various offers,” it said.
The same statement reads that Alexandre Grigolashvili served in the Georgian armed forces in 2007-2008 and was discharged from the army in December, 2008, after contract with him was terminated.
Public service commemorating Grigolashvili, whose body is expected to be flown to Georgia either tonight or on Sunday, was held in the center of Kiev on Saturday with participation of Georgia’s ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, opposition UNM MP and vice-speaker of the Georgian Parliament Giorgi Baramidze, and Georgia’s ambassador to Ukraine Mikheil Ukleba.
Ex-president Saakashvili said earlier this month that many Georgian officers were willing to fight on the Ukrainian side in the east of the country; accusing the Georgian MoD of being pro-Russian, Saakashvili said that “many Georgian officers are left without other option but to go and continue service in friendly Ukraine, which fights the war against Georgia’s enemy.”
MoD responded in a statement on December 7 that Saakashvili’s allegations as if Georgian officers were willing to quit the Georgian army to continue service in Ukraine were “groundless” and “irresponsible propaganda, which has no justification and which is directed against own country and state institutions.” MoD said that those several Georgian citizens, who were fighting in Ukraine, were in the Georgian army years ago and were no longer active servicemen for a long time already.
Last week Tbilisi-based Rustavi 2 television channel ran a lengthy report from eastern Ukraine about Georgian volunteers fighting on the Ukrainian side. Three Georgians from the unit known as “Georgian National Legion” were interviewed, among them was Grigolashvili, who died on December 19.
Grigolashvili, a reconnaissance specialist, was with the Aidar battalion.
“Georgian National Legion is helping Ukrainians. Our task is to train them, to assist them in reconnaissance… It was our patriotic will to help Ukrainians in [fight] against invaders,” Grigolashvili told Rustavi 2 TV in the interview, which was recorded at the town of Shchastya.
Grigolashvili was also interviewed recently by the Ukrainian television channel, Inter, in which he says that he is with the Aidar battalion for “more than a month.” The interview was recorded when member of the Georgian lawmaker from the UNM opposition party, Giorgi Baramidze, vice-speaker of the Parliament, visited eastern Ukraine earlier this week; he visited Ukrainian forces’ positions at the frontline in the east of the country.
Number of Georgian volunteers fighting for Ukraine was not reported, but Rustavi 2 TV said in its report that Georgians were in various Ukrainian battalions in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as in southern coastal town of Mariupol.
One Georgian, who was identified as a member of the Georgian National Legion in Ukraine, told Rustavi 2 that there also were Georgians fighting on the opposite side, sent into eastern Ukraine by Russia.
“It’s not yet clear where and how they are trained, but I hope we will find it out,” he said, adding that one of the Georgians, fighting on the side of Russian-backed separatists, had recently been captured by the Ukrainian forces.
There were also reports about fighters from breakaway South Ossetia fighting on the side of Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. South Ossetian leader, Leonid Tibilov, made a statement on December 10, calling on them to return back.