Fire in Borjomi

Update on Borjomi Fire: Georgia Declines Russia’s Offer to Help; Petrol Canisters Reportedly Found

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Photo: გარემოს დაცვის სამინისტრო

At a special meeting today, Parliament of Georgia approved the President’s decision to involve the Georgian military in putting out the forest fire near Borjomi. The fire has been burning for more than three days, since August 20th, in the village Daba, Borjomi municipality.

At the special parliamentary meeting, Movement for Liberty - European Georgia party leader Elene Khoshtaria expressed that “there are many questions in society about the cause of the fire, and reaction mechanisms. But today we purposefully refuse to talk about those topics. The time will come for that. We only express our support for this act [to involve the military in the operations].”

Georgia’s neighbouring countries have expressed willingness to help extinguish the fire, with Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Belarus sending helicopters and Armenia sending firefighter units.

Russia has also offered to help in extinguishing the fire. Georgia did not accept Russia’s offer.

Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said on August 22nd that “we have a great responsibility and we need to consider absolutely all the versions and options. As far as I know, the Russian side expressed willingness to provide support, but in these conditions, this help was not needed. We can’t manage this fire with this [Russia’s] help.”

Some politicians criticized the Government of   Georgia’s decision not to accept support from Russia. A leader of the Patriots’ Alliance, Ada Marshania, stated that “what if, with this fire, we could start neighbouring relations with Russia? We still have such an opportunity… Are we ever going to need such support from a neighbouring country, which has fascinating techniques and opportunities in this field?”

Patriots’ Alliance leader Irma Inashvili, who is the party’s mayoral candidate for Tbilisi in the October elections, said: “I wouldn’t refuse such an offer, as there’s a crisis situation in the country and one should think about the state interests.”

An activist from Tbilisi, Aka Sinjikashvili, who was on the scene in Borjomi today posted a photo on his facebook page showing a 20-liter petrol canister he and others found in the forests of Borjomi gorge. The police immediately started an investigation and have interrogated those who found this canister. Sinjikashvili says another woman had also found two of the exact canisters in other locations.

The fire in Borjomi gorge has garnered the whole country's attention. Patriarch Ilia II sent clergy onto the scene to hold a special service in St. George’s church in Borjomi. Prime Minister Kvirikashvili attended the service.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili arrived to the scene of fire early in the morning today. The President’s administration shared some of the photos of the President and Prime Minister discussing further actions together with the special command tasked with putting out the fire.

Several companies in Georgia expressed willingness to support the restoration of the forest in Borjomi gorge, including TBC Bank CEO Mamuka Khazaradze, who expressed plans to replant trees on 10 hectares of land, together with Borjomi bottling company. Today, the Bank of Georgia issued an official statement that they will donate 1,000,000 GEL to the restoration of the burnt territory.

Eight helicopters are still trying to put out the fire. 95 firefighters-rescuers from Azerbaijan, and 70 firefighter-rescuers from Armenia are helping Georgian firefighters to put out the fire. The Ministry of Environment of Georgia has shared photos of the operations at the scene:

According to the latest information shared by the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure in the evening of August 23, several places where the fire originated have become more intense due to strong winds. The Ministry says air sources will work until dark to combat the blaze.

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