The country’s first national hero of Independent Georgia is being remembered today 21 years after his death.
Officials laid a wreath at the tomb of Zhiuli Shartava, who would have celebrated his 70th birthday today.
Shartava chaired the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia during the Georgian-Abkhazian War in 1993.
Later that year he was killed by Abkhaz militants during the ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Abkhazia – one of Georgia’s breakaway regions.
Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, Defence Minister Irakli Alasania and other members of the Government commemorated the National Hero and laid a wreath of flowers at his grave at the Saburtalo Pantheon in Tbilisi.
Prime Minister Garibashvili said Georgians would never forget Shartava’s name and he would always serve as an example of commitment to homeland.
"This is the hardest day of Independent Georgia’s history,” Garibashvili said.
"This is the day when Sokhumi [the capital city of Abkhazia] fell down. This caused the death of 15 000 Georgians. This was the hardest brother-killing war of our time. This war split the Georgians and Abkhazians century-old brotherhood. There was no winner in that war,” the PM claimed.
The Defence Minister said Georgians living in today’s society were obliged to finish the work Shartava started.
"This is a reconciliation of the Georgians and Abkhazians. Uniting the country had always been and still remains our main task, for which we should get close to the Abkhazians, Ossetians and restore their faith,” Alasania said.
When the city of Sukhumi fell to the Russian-supported separatist forces on September 27, 1993, Shartava and other members of the Abkhaz Government refused to flee and were captured by the Abkhaz militants.
Initially they were promised safety however Shartava and other officials were killed by the rebels.
A United Nations report revealed Shartava had been "excessively tortured”.
In 2005, American journalist Malcolm Linton displayed numerous photographs taken during the war in Abkhazia in Tbilisi’s art gallery. In one image, Shartavas body was clearly identified lying among the pile of corpses.
Video material taken during the time Sukhumi was captured by the militants, Shartava was seen being carried out from the Government building and physically assaulted. He was forced into a van and taken to the outskirts of Sukhumi where he was killed with other Georgian and Abkhaz Government officials and staff.
Malcolm Linton's Photo gallery in Tbilisi where Shartava's body was identified among the piles of corpses on the photograph; Photo by T. Chirikba