Georgia Accepts Ukrainian Planes to Fight Forest Fire

Georgia Accepts Ukrainian Planes to Fight Forest Fire 

18 August 2006

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Georgia — Georgia has said it is waiting for two Ukrainian planes that will help battle a forest fire that is burning across 500 hectares of the Adigeni district, southern Georgia. This comes shortly after Georgia refused assistance from Russian fire-fighting aircraft.

“It [the fire] may last a week or even more, as our British experts say,” President Saakashvili, who was in the resort town of Abastumani in the Adigeni district, said on August 18.

He tasked Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili to be in charge of coordinating the fire-fighting operation. Merabishvili was also in Abastumani on August 18.

“Our major task is to control the fire and to provide security to the population. Two planes are arriving from Ukraine. More will arrive if needed. You have all the resources,” Saakashvili told the Interior Minister.

Georgia initially requested Russia to assist with fire-fighting planes, but then on August 17 officials said that they no longer needed Russian assistance.

Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Chechelashvili said on August 18 that politics were not behind Georgia’s refusal.

“I confirm that we have requested Russia to help, but now we are sure that we will be able to control fire with our resources and Turkish [fire-fighting] planes,” Chechelashvili said.

Two Turkish fire-fighting planes were involved in battling forest fire on August 16.

Georgian Environment Minister Davit Tkeshelashvili told Imedi television on August 18 “there is no reason for panic… Fire poses no threat to the population.”

He said that British experts are advising the authorities in battling the forest fire, which is the largest in Georgia for past 20 years.


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