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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Saakashvili Dismisses Defense Minister

TBILISI, Georgia — Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili replaced his defense chief Thursday for the second time since Georgia’s war with Russia a year ago, saying the country needed “a stronger hand” to rebuild its military.

Saakashvili suggested the outgoing minister, Vasil Sikharulidze, had not done enough to restore Georgia’s strength. The president named a 28-year-old deputy defense minister, Bachana Akhalaia, as the replacement.

Sikharulidze “played a big role in working out a new defense concept, but I cannot yet give a positive evaluation to the state of the armed forces,” Saakashvili said in televised comments. He appointed Sikharulidze as a foreign policy adviser.

Sikharulidze said last week that U.S. training for Afghanistan-bound Georgian troops could also be used in a new flare-up with Russia. He then retracted his remarks amid U.S. consternation.