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Is the Georgian opposition under Moscow’s wing?

14.03.2009  |  14:29

9/8/2/1982.jpegThe head of the Democratic party, Gia Tortladze, has announced that the campaign run by the opposition parties, which are planning to start protest actions on 9th April demanding Mikheil Saakashvili's resignation, is being financed from Russia. This allegation was made on the talk show "Accents" on Channel One (the Public Broadcaster) of Georgian television.


In an interview with your GeorgiaTimes correspondent, the leader of the Democrats expressed his conviction that Russia was interested in destabilizing Georgia and therefore was now undermining the country from within. Gia Tortladze noted that he came to this conclusion after studying advice given by Russian political commentators on the internet to invest money in the Georgian opposition. "There are some concrete examples," thinks Tortladze. "Many parties didn't even have any money to fill their cars with petrol, but now they are renting offices. They pay high salaries." Your GeorgiaTimes correspondent asked whether that also meant that Salome Zurabishvili, who initiated the ultimatum which runs out on 9th April, has agreed to be financed by Moscow. After

all, she has never concealed her hostility towards Russia. "In this context, we are not talking about Salome Zurabishvili," noted the leading Democrat.

Of course, the opposition has been quick to respond to these allegations. On the same talk show, one of the leaders of the Conservative party, Kakha Kukava, denied this statement, calling it "PR initiated by the authorities".

As a result of all kinds of increasingly frequent allegations being made against her, the leader of the "Democratic Movement - A United Georgia", Nino Burjanadze, issued a special statement a few days ago: "We can't rule out that Mikheil Saakashvili's government is actually behind this ‘black PR'".

In turn, GeorgiaTimes has asked some Russian and Georgian political analysts to comment on this issue.

Vyacheslav Igrunov, Director of the International Institute for Humanitarian and Political Research: "Let's start with what is unclear: will a new regime, if we assume that it will be formed by the opposition, be more favourable to Moscow? If not, there's no point investing any money. Moreover, now the Kremlin follows the principle that everyone needs to pay for themselves." At the same time, the Russian expert thinks that there are different opinions in both Russia and Georgia. "There is a line," he says, "orientated towards confrontation. But there is another one tending towards a normalization of relations with Georgia. At the moment Moscow is reacting to the situation, rather than controlling it. If Tbilisi follows more balanced policies, Russia will be prepared to meet them half-way. But while Georgia sticks to a tough anti-Russian position, pressure will continue," sums up Igrunov.

The viewpoint of the respected Georgian political commentator, Ramaz Sakvarelidze, is largely similar to the opinion of his Russian colleague. Sakvarelidze thinks that more and more often, the parliamentary opposition is singing in unison with the ruling United National Movement. "What does Russia need to invest money in the opposition for?" asks the Georgian political commentator. "After all, Russia couldn't imagine a better option than the current authorities." He thinks that Saakashvili's discredited regime is more useful to the Kremlin than the opposition, which has high ratings both among the population and abroad.

Regarding Russian money in Georgian politics, in Sakvarelidze's opinion, there can't be any talk of so-called "Kremlin money". "Many Georgians live and work in Russia, for whom the current regime has created masses of problems, and they are prepared to help their country get rid of the current regime," thinks the expert. "The interests of many Georgian businessmen coincide with the views of the opposition and the mood of most of the country's population."

To conclude, Sakvarelidze emphasized that the parliamentary opposition and ruling party are actively discrediting Burjanadze, because it is she who has shown herself to be "the most energetic" of the opposition politicians, and foreign leaders listen to what she has to say more closely than the opinion of the former diplomat Irakli Alasania.

For many years, Sakvarelidze worked as an adviser to Eduard Shervardnadze. Therefore your GeorgiaTimes correspondent asked him to comment on Eduard Amvrosievich's recent statement that he had two presidential candidates in mind. Sakvarelidze said that he can only surmise: "The president implied that the candidate is a doctor and has worked for a long time in Georgia and Russia. I assume that he meant Fridon Todua."

The deputy speaker of the Georgian parliament, Fridon Todua, is no lover of making controversial statements, so his name has not been caught up in the rumour mill. But all this is just guesswork. However, in politics it is by no means a rarity that a leader emerges from the shadows at the last moment and grasps the helm of the state ship.

Irina Ptashkovskaya


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