|Georgia’s Saakashvili Names 28-Year-Old as Defense Minister|
|August 27, 2009|
By Helena Bedwell
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili named 28-year-old Bachana Akhalaia as the former Soviet republic’s next defense minister after removing his predecessor for poor strategic planning.
Akhalaia replaces Vasil Sikharulidze, whom Saakashvili criticized for not doing enough to prepare the military “to stop an aggressive and dangerous enemy” in possible future conflicts.
Georgia’s U.S.-trained army was routed by Russia in a five- day war last August over the separatist Georgian region of South Ossetia. Russia later recognized South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent countries and agreed to defend their borders.
“We need a tougher approach,” Saakashvili said during a Security Council meeting that was broadcast on state television. “Bacho Akhalaia is the right man for the job,” he said. “He’s a hard, strict and very honest worker. He has what it takes to run the ministry.”
Akhalaia had served as a deputy defense minister since last year. Previously he worked as a deputy public defender and penitentiary department chief in the Justice Ministry. He holds a Master’s Degree in law.
Saakashvili said Akhalaia has “a lot of enemies,” because he managed to drive major criminals from the Black Sea country “and to keep them away,” an achievement the president hailed as “historical.”
Akhalaia’s appointment is the second Cabinet change in two days. Prime Minister Nika Gilauri yesterday named Zurab Pololikashvili, 32, the country’s ambassador to Spain, as the new economic development minister after firing his predecessor for failing to promote investment.
Georgia has young faces in a number of key positions in addition to Akhalaia and Pololikashvili, including National Bank of Georgia President Giorgi Kadagidze, 29, and Gilauri, 34.
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