In his first public comment since controversial MoD statement on death of Georgian fighter in Ukraine was released last week, Defense Minister Mindia Janelidze said on Friday that it was an unwitting mistake.
MoD said in a statement on December 20 that representatives of Georgia’s previous government were responsible for a death of Georgian citizen, who was killed in a combat in eastern Ukraine, because they were encouraging Georgians to fight in Ukraine. The statement also called “on the citizens not to yield to provocation and not to endanger own lives in exchange of various offers.” The statement caused widespread condemnation and MoD retracted it 24 hours later. MoD leadership said that the statement was released without minister or his deputies knowing text in advance. Defense Minister Mindia Janelidze has kept silence till now, which was a source of criticism even from some GD ruling coalition members.
Speaking with journalists after a government session on December 26, Minister Janelidze said that he was refrained from making comment because of a request from the family of fallen Georgian fighter, whose father called not to politicize the issue.
“We have acknowledged the mistake, which was made during preparation of the text,” the Defense Minister said. “This mistake has been acknowledged and analyzed.”
“As far as my position is concerned, I firmly believed and still believe that involvement in military conflicts is not Georgia’s path. It is not in our national interests to participation in any military conflict. We have already seen very well what military conflicts have brought – that is 20 percent of territories occupied and occupational forces deployed in 40 kilometers from our capital [Tbilisi]. Therefore, it is not in our national interests,” Janelidze said.
“As far as Ukraine is concerned, of course Ukraine is our friendly and brotherly country. We should support them, but this [assistance] should be done in proper forms that will not harm our national interests,” he said.
Asked who draft text of the statement, Janelidze responded: “It does not matter… It was written by unit, which usually drafts statements.” Pressed to specify, he said: “It does not matter.”
“I am not shunning away from responsibility. Whether I was in advance aware or not about the text, I am still responsible for what is going on in my ministry. It was not a mistake done knowingly; it was a technical shortcoming; for certain reasons I was not able to familiarize myself with the final text, but it does not matter now. Mistake has been done; we have acknowledged the mistake and took measure to prevent it from reoccurring in the future,” he said.
“Demands for my resignation were voiced by the [opposition party] United National Movement and I am not going to meet their desires,” Janelidze said, adding that “our ill-wishers”, referring to UNM, tried to “manipulate” with the situation and to mislead the public.
“Speculation about this issue should be over once and for all. It is not in the interest of our army, this is an artificial speculation,” the Defense Minister said.