Journalists as top hazard for Tbilisi?04.09.2009 | 14:09
Since last August events the Russian-Georgian relations have been maintained only at the level of people's diplomacy. The diplomatic relations between the countries are torn up. Yesterday's "round table" on settlement of Georgian-Russian relations was under threat of failure. The representatives of the Russian delegation - First Channel host, Public Chamber Member Maxim Shevchenko and Izvestia Chief Editor Vladimir Mamontov were not permitted to enter Tbilisi. If even the people's diplomacy can't be faultless it means a new confrontation is inevitable, doesn't it? GeorgiaTimes correspondent has tried to grasp the situation.
The incident in the airport wasn't a pretext to wind up people's diplomacy activities. Yesterday the representative of the Russian delegation with the Georgian-Russian public committee on conflict settlement in the Caucasus Alan Kasaev who was detained on the border by the border guards and co-chairman of the committee's Georgian section Malkhaz Gulashvili met with Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II. The "round table" on current Russian-Georgian problems will be held today in Radisson hotel.
As the committee's Georgian section co-chairman Malkhaz Gulashvili pointed out all interested politologists, experts and politicians are invited to attend the conference. According to him such issues as restoration of Russia-Georgia direct air communication, return of Georgian goods to the Russian market, visa regime elimination, settlement of ethnic conflicts and return of refugees will be discussed at the "round table".
How will the Georgian society evaluate the Georgian authorities' outshoot against the Russian journalists? Generally speaking yesterday the country's leaders demonstrated their authoritarian decision-making without regard to the public opinion. The opposition that has been rallying for several months on end has repeatedly underlined necessity to settle relations with Moscow.
This position was underscored by Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II. He is considered the nation's spiritual leader here. It was he who started the dialogue between people's diplomats of two countries after the August events. However the Georgian media disseminate rumors on the authorities' alleged discontent with the Patriarch's activities and his excess intimacy with the Russian clergy.
Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II condemned the actions of the authorities that had prohibited the Russian journalists representing the public organization for settlement of humanitarian consequences of the Russian-Georgian conflict from entering Georgia. It was reported by Malkhaz Gulashvili, the committee's Georgian section member after his meeting with the Patriarch last night in the Patriarchate.
"This is direct persecution of dissidents. How else can this be called if the Patriarch condemns this act? When he says it's a wrong action and no official structure comments on that? I believe this is a bad pretext for the Russian special services to take revenge on Georgian journalists in the same way", - Gulashvili said.
In the meantime Caucasus Press agency with reference to the sources in the law-enforcement bodies confirms the Russian journalists were not allowed to enter Georgia "for repeated violation of Georgian laws and illegal visits to Abkhazia and Samachablo". As the agency's sources report in compliance with the law the Georgian side had the right to arrest the trespassers in the airport and collect the fine but they were only deported.
In a word lately the Georgian authorities have been actively manipulating the Law on Occupied Territories adopted last October. This law inter alia restricts major entrepreneurial activities in the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia not coordinated with the Georgian authorities and regulates movement of foreign citizens. All companies that do or plan to do business in the young South Caucasian republics as well as all tourists who spent their vacations in Abkhazia are subject to sanctions.
Until recently this law as well as many others remained only on paper. But either because the international community didn't meet official Tbilisi's expectations or in order to demonstrate the force on law against the background of the political crisis or to distract people's attention from domestic problems and focus on "external enemies", the provisions of law were given green light. That's why we have this threat of collisions in the Black Sea basin. Georgian authorities arrest vessels sailing to Abkhazia. Abkhazia's authorities are planning to retaliate.
Maxim Shevchenko and Vladimir Mamontov invited their Georgian colleagues for a discussion in Moscow. The contacts will pursue against all odds. But the current event in Tbilisi was meant to be international. Hardly will International Alert representatives - also attendees of the meeting - be silent about the Russian journalists' deportation. That's why this incident risks growing into another international scandal.
GeorgiaTimes correspondent got in touch with Maxim Shevchenko in order to clear up the details of yesterday's incident in the airport of Tbilisi. This is what our interlocutor said: