Speeches & Statements

Emergency statement by President Saakashvili

A major act of sabotage against our country's energy system has been committed by the Russian Federation. Early this morning the three main arteries supplying Georgia with energy were simultaneously cut off. These were the two [gas] pipelines on Russian territory and the Kavkasioni power line, which also enters Georgia from Russia.

We have reports that the transmission line was blown up and, according to the evidence we have, there were also acts of sabotage on the gas pipelines. Russia's current explanations are confused, inadequate and very contradictory.

This has happened at a time when Georgia has been experiencing constant pressure from Russia over the past few months. We have repeatedly heard threats from many Russian officials that they would turn off the gas and that the electricity line might be put out of action - then we would see how we could survive the cold winter.

This has all happened at a time of unprecedented cold weather. Georgia has recorded the coldest winter for decades. This has happened at a time when, for the first time since independence, and our people know this, Georgia's energy system was prepared to deal the coldest temperatures. It is a resilient system that can deal with cold snaps and breakdowns. For the first time since independence Georgia has had uninterrupted supplies of electricity and gas, until now, for almost the whole winter.

This has happened at a time when we have just improved the resilience of our energy system and after we began installing meters throughout Georgia, a process which is continuing. We have put the system in order. We have enforced order and discipline. Tomorrow I intended to open the first major energy installation built in Georgia since independence, a new gas turbine power station, which is to add resilience to our system, meaning there will be even less chance of this system succumbing to accidents and instability.

In this context an attempt was made to keep us permanently under pressure. Russia, violating every agreement and all market logic, suddenly doubled the price of gas supplied to Georgia. That, too, did not destroy us. We said that we were prepared - there is no alternative at the moment - to pay this doubled price.

However, at the same time, for the past year, we know we have been talking with an extremely unstable, unreliable, capricious and politically motivated blackmailer - there is no other word for it.

We have been preparing for this the whole year. We repaired our gas pipelines with Azerbaijan, we have been conducting talks with other suppliers. We were almost at a point where Georgia will soon have alternative supplies of gas, other means of receiving gas, more secure and reliable communications and supplies.

During the same period Russia has been attempting to force Georgia to hand over to them our gas distribution and transport system by using blackmail. However, while we are always prepared to consider sound commercial proposals, Georgia will not do anything in the face of blackmail.

Those people who carried out this unprecedented act of vandalism in the middle of winter to cut off completely gas and electricity supplies are deceiving themselves if they think that Georgia will break up, collapse, be brought to its knees and then crawl back to Russia on all fours. Speaking to us like that - our dear friends and partners in the Kremlin - has never worked and will never work, nor will it work for you.

Everyone should understand that partnership and friendly relations are possible with Georgia, but I would certainly not advise anyone to use threats, insults and fist-thumping against any country, including, naturally, our own country and our people, who have a sense of dignity and have a strong love of their homeland.

We are prepared to deal with every issue through cooperation, friendship and partnership. Since this morning, while we have not been able to contact anyone in the Russian government, we have been holding consultations with our friends in other countries, with the USA and our partners in Europe.

I want our people to know that the Georgian government has done a lot to make sure this kind of blackmail can never work. We will not abandon our people. We, together with our people, will overcome these difficulties. A few days ago I said to you that this year would be a decisive year, with final attempts to force us from our path, our path of freedom, unity and unification. These people will stoop to anything.

We should know that we should overcome all these challenges and we will certainly find a way out, we will certainly overcome these difficulties.

I have given the order that until gas supplies have been fully restored, higher education institutions and schools are to close. Vital facilities and hospitals will be supplied as much as possible. Every state service will be mobilized to prevent some serious consequences for certain people.

At the same time we categorically demand that the Russian government restore as quickly as possible energy supplies to Georgia and fulfil its obligations under the contract as one would expect from civilized, international trade and economic relationships, as one would expect in any normal energy market and between normal reliable partners.

We are waiting for a decisive, rapid response and quick action to restore the situation to normality.

This translation is published with permission from BBC Monitoring, Reading UK

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of the President of Georgia

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