(Washington, DC--February 4, 2005) RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine released the following statement today, in reaction to the death of Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania:
"I and my colleagues at RFE/RL are stunned and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Zurab Zhvania, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Georgia, who was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning yesterday in Tbilisi. We deeply admired him. In his short life, Prime Minister Zhvania was a longtime, enthusiastic and committed force for democratic reform in his country -- one of Georgia's best hopes for the future.
"Though his life has tragically come to an end at the age of 41, Prime Minister Zhvania's wife, Nino, and three children can be proud of what he achieved during his time among us. Elected to the Georgian parliament before the age of 30 and elected parliament chairman soon thereafter, Zhvania eventually became one of the prime movers in his country's 2003 'Rose Revolution.' Because of his commitment to Georgia's democratic traditions and to restoring the dignity of his fellow citizens, Georgia is rapidly becoming the stable democracy Prime Minister Zhvania devoted his life to creating.
"It is my distinct honor to be able to call Prime Minister Zhvania -- whom I first met in 1995 and then praised in testimony I delivered before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- a personal friend. I will miss him greatly. But more importantly, his untimely death is a tremendous loss for the people of Georgia."