Shootout in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge – one dead, four injured
One person has been killed and four wounded in Pankisi Gorge in eastern Georgia.
Locals say the clash was due to the construction of a power plant in the gorge.
The wounded have been taken to Telavi hospital.
Ethnic Chechen Kists live in the Pankisi Gorge.
The conflict arose between representatives of two local families – the Mutoshvili and Kavtarashvili – when a skirmish broke out between them. One of the participants in the conflict, Malkhaz Mutoshvili, died.
Georgian television channel Mtavari Arkhi unveiled footage shot at the Telavi hospital, in the courtyard of which Pankisi residents gathered.
Thy said the Kavtarashvili family “carried out a campaign” to support the construction of the hydroelectric power station in the Pankisi Gorge.
“The deceased was my uncle. This story began because of the power plant. All this year, the whole community watched the processes taking place in the gorge. There was a local group that lobbied for this case (construction of a hydroelectric power station). They were associated with the government and the state security service. I don’t know how justified the sacrifice of even one person is for this,” said Luiza Mutoshvili, a civil activist from Pankisi, to the channel.
Louisa Mutoshvili says the authorities did not give a proper assessment of the situation in the gorge due to the hydroelectric power station. She fears that this could exacerbate the situation in Pankisi:
“The government should have talked with local residents to explain the real benefits or losses from the project … But it left this process to chance, which led to the result that we are now observing. A man died and we don’t know what else awaits us.”
The fight for and against the hydroelectric power station
The dispute over the construction of the Pankisi power plant began in the spring of 2019. On April 21, clashes between locals and the police occurred in the Pankisi Gorge.
55 people were injured: 17 local residents and 38 police officers.
Police cars and equipment owned by the construction company were damaged. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets, while locals threw stones at law enforcement.
The Khadori 3 hydroelectric power station with a capacity of 5.4 MW is planned to be built on the Alazani River in the municipality of Akhmeti.
Khadori 3 is the third power station of Alazani Energy in this gorge. Khadori 1 and Khadori 2 are already operating on the Alazani River.
According to the project, a new hydroelectric station should be built near the village of Birkiani.
Over 4.5 kilometers, 90 percent of the water of the Alazani River will flow into the station’s turbine.
Pankisi residents fear that the lack of water in the river will affect pastures, which are very important for them – most of the population lives on cattle breeding.
In addition, there are fears that this will exacerbate the already acute problem of drinking water in the nearby villages. According to local residents, the construction of a new power station will hinder the development of tourism.
Arriving in Pankisi on April 21, the current Prime Minister George Gakharia, who was then Minister of the Interior, after talks with local residents said that the construction of the power plant would be stopped until it was supported by at least 90 percent of the population.
In comments for the media after the conflict in Pankisi on November 27, Pankisi residents say that the government decided to resolve the problem not by open communication with the population, but by provoking a conflict between local residents.