Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sacrifices for Parliament

21/12/09--Resonance Daily
Sacrifices for Parliament
Akaki Bobokhidze: “No one will stand in the way of the construction of the parliament building in Kutaisi”

By: Giorgi Putkaradze

As a result of the sacrifices made by mother and daughter, Eka Tsutskhvashvili and young Nino Jincharadze, up to ten people have been arrested, the governor of Imereti [of which Kutaisi is the capital] has been sacked and the president is horrified; however one thing will remain unchanged: the dismantling of the victory memorial and the construction of the parliament building in Kutaisi.

Two days ago, the deceased girl’s father, Soso Jincharadze, arrived at the scene of the tragedy pleading desperately, “They killed my child. What can help me?” Just as Soso’s child cannot be returned, neither will the fact that “no one will stand in the way of the construction of the parliament building in Kutaisi” be changed. Those were the words of parliamentary majority member Akaki Bobkhidze, one of the chief proponents of relocating Parliament to Kutaisi, who is paying close attention to accusations coming from the public in the wake of the tragedy.

On December 19, at approximately 16:00, Merab Berdzenishvili’s [WWII] victory monument, located in the residential area surrounding the auto-factory, was demolished. Minutes later, word spread throughout the city that the demolition had claimed a victim. It was later learned that young Nino Jincharadze died at the scene and that her mother, Eka Tsutskhvashvili, died at the hospital.

Several other residents near the memorial were wounded and were treated at the scene by emergency crews.

But the dismantling of the memorial began on December 12. The site of the new parliamentary building was marked out, and, as the news media would later learn from the workers on site, the date of the demolition was to be December 21, the president’s birthday. But supposedly due to the plans of political and non-governmental organizations to construct a human chain around the memorial, the dismantling process was hastened.

According to “The New Gazette” [„ახალი გაზეთი“], law-enforcement officers appeared in the residential area surrounding the auto-factory on December 19 at around 14:00. They warned residents in the area that they needed to evacuate their homes immediately. At 16:00, SakPetkMretsvi, LLC, demolished the 27 meter-high concrete structure (what was left of the “victory monument” after a week of dismantling). The force of the explosion sent chunks of concrete flying some hundreds of meters in the direction of the residential area.

“When they began the evacuations, they removed us from our apartments saying, ‘the demolition is going to happen and you need to get out in the streets.’ We moved away from the apartments and ran towards the ‘barracks.’ At that moment, the explosion occurred. Those poor folks who were in the courtyard by the apartment building—that’s where the girl was standing when the rock hit her in the head and killed her. Is our government happy now? They don’t care, their kids didn’t die! This is simply destruction for destruction’s sake—what trouble did the monument ever cause?” said several eyewitnesses to the newspaper.

“I was coming in from the city and the police wouldn’t let me go to my home. I wanted to pick up a few things. At that moment, the explosion occurred and when I arrived at the scene of bloodied people on the ground I discovered that my husband was among them,” said the wife of Irakli Jincharadze who was taken to the hospital.

Emergency crews first transported the wounded to the auto-factory’s hospital, and only later were they taken to the West Georgian National Center of Interventional Medicine. Nino Jincharadze would have been taken to the children’s hospital but it was too late to save her.

Local journalists quote eyewitnesses as saying that following the explosion, they were asked by police officers to leave the area with all haste as a second explosion was imminent. According to eyewitnesses, the police wanted to empty the area so that they could hide the child’s body.

[Second half of translation to come]

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bitsadze says survived an assasination attempt by Saakashvili, "one more minute and it would have turned out very badly"

ბიწაძე ამბობს, რომ სააკაშვილის ბრძანებით დაგეგმილ თავდასხმას გადაურჩა "წუთიც და იქ ძალიან ცუდი ფაქტი მოხდებოდა"

From Georgian daily "Rezonansi," by Tamta Karchava

Badri Bitsadze [former Chief of Border Police and husband of opposition leader Nino Burjanadze] accuses the government authorities for making an attempt on his life. According to Bitsadze, on October 27, after leaving TV company "Maestro," his car was followed by three black SUVs. The cars stopped by Vakhushti Bridge and were preparing to stage an incident, according to Bitsadze, when he made the decision to return to "Maestro." Bitsadze was a guest on "Cell #5" [an opposition TV talk show starring Giorgi Gachechiladze, famous musician and brother of opposition leader Levan Gachechiladze, who has sworn to stay in his "cell" while Saakashvili remains president of Georgia]. The main topic of discussion concerned the government's hand in the bombing of Tskhinavli and the current situation in Pankisi Gorge.

Badri Bitsadze: At 12:30, I left TV company "Maestro." The moment I set foot out of theat studio, three black SUVs began to tail me. They tried to stage an incident at the start of Vakhushti Bridge.

Rezonanshi: Why do you think they were tailing you?

BB: One more minute and it would have turned out very badly. Two cars were in front of us, one in back, but we knew something was up and we turned around. The cars scattered--that's always a sure sign. I know Saakashvili all too well and most likely, after hearing what I had to say that night, he issued an order for me to be punished.

R: What was it that you said that angered the authorities?

BB: I said the truth, about what I know, and what I have seen with my own eyes. I talked about Tskhinvali and also Pankisi. I talked about the possibility of terrorists crossing into the Pankisi Gorge. As for Tskhinvali, I said that the war could have been avoided if Saakashvili weren't president, and I know that this angered him. I said that Saakashvili was preparing for this war.

R: Did you confront them?

BB: No.

R: Why not?

BB: Because there were two police patrols lying in ambush and they were keeping an eye on the scene. They know that I have the right to carry a gun and that I'm a more than qualified to handle it. That's why they want to shoot me. For them, the life of a person is nothing. They would kill one of their hired men and then blame it on me. That's what they wanted to do this time, but it didn't work out. The two cars which were driving in front of me blocked the bridge, the third was behind me. At that moment, I made the decision not to continue and turned around and headed back to the TV studio. It seems that they became confused. It took them a long time to decide what to do. . They came back for me, but by then I was already in the TV studio.

R: When you got back to the TV studio, they came back for you?

BB: Yes. They came up to the TV studio, but there were people waiting for them. They realized that it wasn't going to work out and they left. I want to tell these people that it would be best for them to forget about shadowing me.

R: Approximately how many people were in the car?

BB: It had tinted windows and I couldn't see if they were masked or not. In the two cars in front, there were four people in each. I don't know how many people were in the car behind me. I'm certain that they would have been armed. I know Saakashvili's character, and while he was watching the broadcast, I know that he gave the order.

R: What order did he give?

BB: An order for my punishment, of course.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One hundred meters from Trinity Cathedral

[The following is my incomplete translation of the most recent cover article from Asaval-Dasavali. It concerns the recent scandal involving disparaging comments made about Georgian Patriarch Ilia II. The title "One hundred meters from Trinity [Sameba] Cathedral" is a reference to the Presidential Palace located near the Patriarch's primary place of worship. The beginning of this article promises an interesting read... The rest of the translation will come in pieces throughout the week--check back often!--Ryan]

სამების ტაძრიდან ას მეტრში

It’s 11:30 at night in the Avlabari District. Mikheil Saakashvili is pacing back and forth in his office. Both anger and despair are written across his face, and every once in a while he casts a hopeless glance towards his two advisers, Nodar Grigalashvili and Van Bayburt, who are fidgeting in their leather armchairs and casting furtive looks at Saakashvili’s desk. A rather large ashtray sits between them as does a television remote, and like two birds afraid that they will be struck by either object, neither dares to fly away from the leader.

Each time the restless Saakashvili nears his desk, Grigalashvili and Baiburt feel death’s grip tightening, thinking that now’s the moment that he’s going to make a fist or seize the ashtray or remote and come after us. True, these two have nothing to do with Saakashvili’s current rage, but when Saakashvili is angry, does he distinguish the guilty from the innocent?

Only when Saakashvili storms out of his office into his sitting room and stands directly beneath the large chandelier do Nodar and Van breathe a sigh of relief. The advisers’ chests loosen a bit. We saved the ashtray, they think to themselves.

“Did you hear what he said? Oh, why did Ilia II do this to me?! As if the Tagliavini report weren’t enough, now I’ve got to deal with this? Who is this guy, who is Ilia II…? I’ll see to it that he’s put into his place. I must, I must! What am I going on about! I won’t have him…” So distressed is Saakashvili that even his speech fails him.

“What are we going to do now? His words could be serious trouble. The people will pay close attention to what he says, for we all know how these people wait eagerly for each and every one of his words!” says Nodar Grigalashvili, avoiding the eyes of his boss.

“Van, what do you say? What do you think?” Saakashvili asks Bayburt. “How do we silence this man… how do we cover up what he said? How do we make sure that they don’t heed his comments and are instead distracted by something else?”

“What do I know, Misha, sir, what do I know? This man is the Patriarch, not just some nobody, Misha, sir. As for what we should do with him, what do I know?! He’s the Patriarch. He has a lot of authority, and should anything arise, the people will protect him, they will stand by his side! Misha, sir, what should I tell you!” says Bayburt, who also looks away from Saakashvili. He is staring at Nodar’s shoes. On one shoe, the presidential adviser has a loose strap; the other is fine—the strap has broken off entirely and has been replaced by a cord.

The scene is a comic one, but it is no time to laugh when the boss is angry.

“Nodar, what do you say? What should we do? We need to do something, that’s for sure, that way I can’t be stopped! Who does Ilia II think he is? To me, he is nobody. To me, he is not the Patriarch, and no one is. I’ll put him in his plae. Nodar, what should we do?” asks Saakashvili.

“What can I tell you, Misha, what can I tell you, my friend, what do I know? I’m…as Ilia Chavchavadze once wrote, 'I’m simply the man in the middle, sometimes of the earth, sometimes of the sky.'"

“Eh, Nodarik, it’s not 'sometimes of the sky, sometimes of the earth,' but 'I’m neither of the sky nor earth.' Moreover, it wasn’t Ilia Chavchavadze but Akaki Tsereteli!” interrupts Van Bayburt, catching Grigalasvhili’s mistake.

[More to come of this dramatization...]

Friday, October 23, 2009

Now offering translation services...

Many people come to this site looking for Russian or Georgian-to-English translation. I've now decided to make my services available for pretty much free. Just send me what you want translated and I'll get back to you. I'll translate short documents (less than one page) for free--but if you really like the service, always feel free to make a donation!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Kitsmarishvili article done

Please read the post below to read the completed translation of Erosi Kitsmarishvili's interview with Georgian newspaper Asaval-Dasavali regarding the Tagliavini report.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Former Georgian Ambassador to Russia on Tagliavini Report

[Edit: the translation is complete]

[The following is my translation (from Georgian) of Erosi Kintsamarishvili's interview with Georgian newspaper Asavali-Dasavali.]

Erosi Kitsmarishvili, Georgia’s last ambassador to Russia [there are currently no diplomatic relations between the two countries following the August 2008 war], is the only person who dared to state openly at a meeting of a temporary parliamentary investigative commission that the August war was started by Saakashvili. Today, Kintsmarishvili says that the Tagliavini commission’s findings correspond precisely with his conclusions and that this is Europe’s verdict on Saakashvili’s government:

EK: The Tagliavini commission gave its unequivocal evaluation of last August’s war. Word for word, it agreed with what I said before the parliamentary commission: the war was started by Georgia when it stormed Tskhinvali on August 7, but that the Russians were provoking the situation in the period leading up to it. These are not only the findings of the Tagliavini commission, but also that of “Rueters”, “The Associated Press”, “The New York Times”, and the “BBC”. There aren’t more authoritative media sources than these. Yes, the Tagliavini commission was the sole and most authoritative commission. There will never be a commission of higher authority on this matter; therefore, its findings carry a lot of weight. Of course, it does not have any legal power, it cannot hold anyone responsible. It only provides facts, and in this case, it determined that Georgia started the war. The international community has pronounced Saakashvili as a man who comitted war crimes and who on the basis of these findings has found himself isolated. Now, the main thing is that we must act in such a way that the country itself won’t become isolated.

A-D: Saakashvili is still telling us that this is a diplomatic victory for Georgia and a defeat for Russia.

Saakashvili’s statements in the last few days are only meant for internal consumption. Outside the country, no one listens to him any longer as the world’s best experts have pronounced that Saakashvili started the war, and this pronouncement is no longer up for debate. The only thing Saakashvili is concerned with now is making sure that inside the country, the people don’t have an alternate opinion. But they can’t change what the report says. Now, the real question is what the people think about this man, thanks to whom we lost new territories, we now have tens of thousands of refugees, and thanks to his doing, has brought back the Russian army and plans of military bases to the South Caucasus. In order to figure out what the people are thinking, we first need to supply them with accurate information.

Your newspaper, Asavali-Dasavali, reaches nearly every household, and that’s why I want to take this opportunity to tell all households: what you hear from the government, and what you’re being told through TV—it’s all lies. The truth is what’s written here, not only here, but also what’s being said in serious publications around the world: Saakashvili started the war. Now, I ask you, the Georgian people, what do you think? Do you want a new war with Russia? Is there any prospect of victory in such a war? Do we want to clash with the Abkhaz and Ossetian people? Do we want a government which hurled our country into catastrophe, has become isolated and now wants to bring the country down with it?

Do you know what this means? It means that our families, spouses, will be forced to go abroad in search of work, without rights, to work in slave-like conditions, that the problems of unemployment, lack of rights, and poverty will deepen. This is the reality that faces us if we don’t express our position with regard to this man, Mikheil Saakashvili.

Mr. Kintsmarishvili, you were saying that Saakashvili had been preparing for this military campaign for a long time.

In 2004, when Saakashvili peacefully, gently—you could even say without a hitch—managed to effect a regime change in Ajaria, he came under the illusion that he could resolve the Abkhazian and Ossetian problems just as easily. That’s when he began the preparations. I believed that it was possible to repair relations with the Ossetians and the Abkhazians by peaceful means, but that this would require a healthy economy, the successful development of the country, and the establishment of soft, warm relations, but Saakashvili did not heed this advice and immediately opted for military confrontation.One of the reasons I left Georgia was the failure to agree on this issue. The first attempt at a military campaign came in June 2004 and ended in an absolute fiasco. Following this, Saakashvili made up his mind to go to war. While this was going on, I believed that I could change his mind. For this reason, I returned to Georgia and once again stood by his side. I agreed to the ambassadorship to Russia for the very reason that I knew that he was preparing for a conflict with Russia, and I believed that I could help achieve a peaceful outcome with regards to relations with Russia.

Was there really the possibility that this war could have been avoided?

I can confidently say that this war could have been avoided from the very beginning. But from 2004 until the events of August 2008, Saakashvili’s sights were set on only one thing: he wanted to restore Georgia’s territorial integrity by military operation. He said that war was how we should re-unite the country, and off he went. He shamefully lost the war, killed innocents, while he himself had his luggage packed should he have needed to flee. And after the war he comes out and says that whatever the situation, he would fire shots again when he feels like it. This begs the question of the Georgian people: Are we where we want to be?

In your opinion, we aren’t where we should be, that we still have a long road ahead of us?

The man is saying that he’s going to bring out the guns again. Where he’ll shoot and in what manner, God knows!

By the way, Okruashvili said in an interview that Saakashvili often told him that had dreams of appearing before The Hague Tribunal. Do you think this dream will come true?

Oddly enough, today Saakashvili is saying that Medvedev and Putin should appear before The Hague Tribunal. It’s classic Freudian psychology—he’s talking about what should happen to others when he himself should be afraid, and it’s true that this fear that he might appear before The Hague has been bothering him for quite some time. Saakashvili has been seriously worried for a long time now that he would become blamed and that this would land him before The Hague. The “Economist” wrote: “If justice were the ultimate goal, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president, and Mikheil Saakashvili, his Georgian counterpart, should appear together in court in The Hague.” However, I think that Saakasvhili shouldn’t appear before The Hague; rather, he should appear before a court of the Georgian people, or rather a court of the Georgian, Abkhazian, and Ossetian people.

You’re saying that changes are necessary. How do you see these changes being realized?

First of all, the opposition across the board needs to realize that the people deserve the honest truth. The propaganda machine is running at full tilt, and accurate information about the Tagliavini report is not being delivered to the people. Therefore, this information needs to be brought to each and every household. Afterwards, a poll should be taken, and if we see that the people’s attitude agrees, for example, with mine, then we need to utilize all forms of pressure on the government. Let me reiterate, all forms of pressure so that things are taken step-by-step.

How likely is it that the people’s efforts no longer matter, and that instead, the international community will demand Saakashvili to leave?

That’s out of the question. The international community has already told us that the problem is this man, but they also told us that whoever killed the dog should also carry it away. I’ve never seen a clearer message.

Europe told us: “We said that this man is guilty, and now you are free to make of that what you will.” That is, it’s up to us now if we should keep Saakashvili or let him go. If we can’t succeed [in letting Saakashvili go], then a very depressing future awaits us!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Interview with Nino Burjanadze (Asaval-Dasavali)

The following is my translation (from the original Georgian) of Burjanadze's interview with Georgian newspaper Asaval-Dasavali published in the August 10 issue.

Last August, Saakashvili asked to meet with you a few days before the war. Did he ask you for your opinon on any issues?

Yes, I did meet with Saakashvili on August 3, 2008. Apparently, he had already taken a decisive step and wanted to see what my reaction would be! This was the first time that he had asked to see me after my depature from the government. At that time, tensions were high in the country and that's why I agreed to meet with Saakashvili.

I remember it perfectly. On August 3, a Sunday, at 5 o'clock I entered the residence. We talked for almost an hour and twenty minutes, and I told him very clearly that a war with Russia would only end in catastrophe for Georgia. I told him that there was no question that Putin would get involved in this war and that there was no question that Georgia would lose this war!

Who else attended the meeting?

No one, we were alone.

And what did Saakashvili tell you?

He said that we would take Tskhinvali in one night, that's when I told him that things wouldn't turn out the way he planned and also that the capture of Tskhinvali would not solve the problem! I also told him that even if we get South Ossetia back by military means, we would lose Abkhazia for good, and Saakashvili agreed with me!

During this meeting, Saakashvili also promised me that he would not start a war and that he would not be drawn into any military operation, but...

Besides this meeting, I remember other meetings at the very same Avlabari residence, at his Tserovani residence, and in his office where I often had very heated debates with Saakashvili and his inner circle. They would flex their muscles and say that the Russians have rusty tanks, that we would win the war, that we would crush them and advance all the way to Moscow!

We know that there was a military operation in Samachablo [a region that now lies entirely in South Ossetia], but why did we lose Kodori Gorge [aka Kodori Valley, now part of Abkhazia]? How do you explain the surrender of Kodori?

Just now, on August 7, I was listening to Saakashvili's statement where he said he was planning on going to Kodori Gorge, but that had he gone, he wouldn't have had a phone and wouldn't have been able to call foreign countries. What century does he think this is? What about satellite phones? Or does the president only use landlines? Either he was lying or he was once again demonstrating his unprofessionalism.

The abandonment of Kodori Gorge was planned! No one could have taken Kodori Gorge. It didn't remain part of Georgia's jurisidiction after the war in the 90s by chance. Kodori is a naturally impregnable fortress and no one could have bombed it!

The order to abandon Kodori was a criminal one and whoever gave that order should be sent to prison. I am convinced that the time will come!

It doesn't matter if it will happen in a year from now, or in ten, Burjanadze or someone else will be in power, and whoever was responsible for the surrender of Kodori Gorge will be sent to prison.

Someone must be held responsible for this war! Someone must be held responsible for our boys who ran half-naked from Kodori while we were out standing on Rustaveli, singing, and not telling the people that at this very moment we were losing Kodori Gorge!

This is a mockery which can never be forgiven! When this man asks for forgiveness, God will not forgive him!

[Note: this is not the first time that Burjanadze has referred to this meeting before the war. She mentioned it in an interview just a few weeks after the war.]

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nino Burjanadze: Saakashvili believed that he could take Tskhinvali in one night

Нино Бурджанадзе: Саакашвили уверял, что захватит Цхинвали за одну ночь

[You can also read the translation from the original Georgian here.]

One of the leaders of the Georgian opposition, ex-Speaker of Parliament Nino Burjanadze, told the Tbilisi daily newspaper "Asaval-Dasavali" that Mikheil Saakashvili shared his war plan with her on August 3. "He said that we would take Tskhinvali in one night," said Burjanadze.

Burjanadze formally resigned from her position on April 28, 2008. Her meeting with Saakashvili in August was the first since the two leaders of the "Rose Revolution" had separated. At that time, Burjanadze had not gone over to the opposition since she still wished to consult with her former ally.

"We met at his residence on August 3, on Sunday, at 5 pm. We talked for close to an hour and twenty minutes," recalls Burjanadze. "I told him that a war with Russia would only end in catastrophe for Georgia. Saakashvili still believed that we would take Tskhinvali in one night. I replied that that wouldn't happen. Secondly, that the capture of Tskhinvali does not mean a resolution to our problems. I also told him that even if we get South Ossetia back by military means, we would lose Abkhazia for good. Saakashvili acknowledged this."

Burjanadze recalled several more conversations and arguments with the president and his inner circle: "They said that the Russians have rusty tanks, that we would win the war, that we would crush them and advance all the way to Moscow."

The interview turned to the topic of scandal. Burjanadze told of how the Georgian secret service controlled the meeting of opposition leaders with US vice president Joseph Biden.

"I have no doubts that the meeting was recorded," she said. "All diplomats in Georgia know that their phones are tapped, that their movements are traced. I know that one diplomat of high rank, upon discovering that he was being followed, filed a protest against deputy minister of foreign affairs Giga Bokeria."

(Photo: Reuters)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Duma Deputy: Saakashvili hopes to survive the economic crisis through provocations

Саакашвили надеется пережить острый экономический кризис за счет оплаченных силовых провокаций - депутат Госдумы РФ

Georgia's armed provocations are just another way for Mikheil Saakashvili to ask for money from the international community, first and foremost, from the US, believes Ruslan Kondratov, member of the Committee for International Affairs of the Russian State Duma. According to an IA Regnum correspondent, on August 5, Kondratov stated that he was certain that in the next few days, the situation at the Georgian-Abkhazian border could become very complicated. "Today, South Ossetia closed its border with Georgia, and the Ossetian's fear is quite justified--after last year's monstrous demarche, any kind of provocation can be expected from Saakashvili, including the use of military force. Now, the Georgian president needs to increase his political weight, and the anniversary of the military conflict in the Caucasus region is a serious occasion," noted the parliamentarian.

"In addition, Georgia is in the midst of an economic crisis, and armed provocations against South Ossetia and Russia are another way for Saakashvili to ask for money from the international community, first and foremost, the US," said the Duma deputy. "Tbilisi understands that if they can get the Russian army to use force against Georgia, this could be a trump card in their foreign policy game. Therefore, the main task of our border forces is not to permit such events to unfold. Nevertheless, since the end of July, South Ossetia and Georgia have reported provocations on the border," said Kondratov.

South Ossetia closed its border with Georgia. The Leader of the republic, Eduard Kokoity, explained that the move was necessary as provocations from Tbilisi have increased in the last few days.

In addition, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov characterized Saakashvili's request that American observers be included in the EU Mission as an attempt to destabilize the situation in the South Caucasus and to provoke a conflict between the US and Russia.

South Ossetia closes border with Georgia

Южная Осетия закрыла границу с Грузией

Early this morning, South Ossetia closed its border with Georgia. The Leader of the republic, Eduard Kokoity, explained that the move was necessary as provocations from Tbilisi have increased in the last few days.

Patrols have been reinforced, as has the 4th Russian Military Base, which is deployed in South Ossetia. Members of the Air Force and the Air Defense of the Northern Caucasus Military District have been placed on high alert.

According to the Ministry of Defense, "the Russian armed forces will stop any possible agression from Tbilisi in its infancy."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ruling party on Saakashvili's meeting with Pinchuk: No comment

სააკაშვილ-პინჩუკის შეხვედრაზე მმართველი პარტია კომენტარს არ აკეთებს

Tamta Karchava

[This is a translation of an article published in Georgian daily "Resonance" (Rezonansi) on July 4; I have not been able to find an online edition of this article. If I do, I will provide a link to it.]

Nino Burjanadze's meeting with Viktor Pinchuk, son-in-law of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, is in the news again. The authorities claim that Burjanadze sought funding from Pinchuk for large-scale protests. Burjanadze has denied the accusation and is saying that a few months ago, Pinchuk invited Saakashvili to a Paul McCartney concert in Kiev, and that the President of Georgia accepted his offer.

Neither the President's administration nor Parliament has made any comment on Saakashvili's stay at Pinchuk's home. Member of the ruling party Murtaz Zodelava did not even wish to speak with us on the matter.

Zurab Melikishvili, one of the leaders of the ruling party, offers this piece of advice to Burjanadze: tell the public about this secret meeting, which the ex-Speaker of Parliament [i.e. Burjanadze] says was a "personal meeting."

"It would be better for Mrs. Burjanadze to tell the public about this meeting, which she says was a 'personal meeting.' She needs to explain why she is having secret meetings with a person like this--someone that is directly linked to Russian money which was used by Russia in it's war against Georgia last August, and which is still being used against Georgia today. It would be good if she explained similar meetings.

Resonance: Burjanadze says a few months ago, Saakashvili was a personal guest at Pinchuk's home.

Zurab Melikishvili: Aren't I the one giving the interview...

R: Was or was not Saakashvili a guest of Pinchuk?

Z.M.: Fine. Whatever you have asked, I have already answered.

R: Isn't this a question? Was or was not Saakashvili at his home?

At this point, Zurab Melikishvili hung up the phone. Ukrainian news outlets broke the story of Burjanadze's and Pinchuk's meeting on July 1. The meeting took place on June 29. It should be noted that Pinchuk, who is known to be a friend of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, has made several strategic acquisitions in Georgia.

"Saakashvili considered it a great honor to be a guest of this man. A few months ago he was a personal guest. If there were something unacceptable in this man, then why did he hurry to accept the invitation to the Paul McCartney concert in Kiev? If this man associates with criminals, then why was he [Saakashvili] at his home? He [Pinchuk] is a very honorable person, who commands great authority not only in Kiev, but also in the West," noted Nino Burjanadze in a conversation with Resonance last Thursday.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Arrests and extreme forms of protest in Georgia: situation beginning to get out of hand

Аресты и крайние формы протеста в Грузии: ситуация начинает выходить из-под контроля

Opposition protesters are demonstrating before the building of the Georgian Parliament. The decision to move the protests to Rustaveli Avenue was made by leaders of the opposition after their supporters were forced to flee from the main office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Tbilisi.

Of those protesters, as deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia, Eka Zguladze, stated, 39 were arrested by the police. Zguladze remarked that the police did not intend on resorting to force, but that police recognized many faces of those that had participated in the attack on deputies near the Parliament building on June 12. Attempts to arrest them, however, were met by resistance.

Meanwhile, several memberes of the opposition movement have begun extreme forms of protest. According to an IA Regnum correspondent, one of the protesters demonstrating before Parliament is Abkhazian refugee Ramaz Aroniya, who has sewn his mouth and eyes shut. He is trying to draw attention to the authorities' unwillingness to see what they have done to Georgia, and to condemn law enforcement for suppression of freedom of speech. One Opposition supporter has promised to sew his ears shut, should his protests go unheard by Mikheil Saakashvili.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Saakashvili to govern Georgia from Adjara

Саакашвили намерен править Грузией из Аджарии

Due to ongoing opposition protests, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has been forced to relocate his residence. Currently, the the President of Georgia is 400 kilometers west of Tbilisi in Adjara. Saakashvili's residence in Tbilisi has been surrounded by opposition protesters.

Since April 9, the Georgian opposition has been conducting protests, calling for the resignation of the president. Recently, there was a meeting between Saakashvili and and one of the opposition leaders, Levan Gachechiladze. However, according to the opposition, the meeting did not lead to any favorable developments.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Opposition activists assault Georgian Speaker of Parliament with sticks and stones

Оппозиционеры атаковали машину спикера парламента Грузии с камнями и палками

Radical opposition activists today assaulted a car in which Georgian Speaker of Parliament David Bakradze was riding. Following the end of the day's parliamentary session, Bakradze left the building and found dozens of opposition activists surrounding his car. According to an IA Regnum correspondent, they began throwing sticks and stones at the speaker's car. Many were shouting "Shame," in a sign of protest against the first session of parliament held since the parliamentary recess began two months ago. Parliament security guards intervened and were able to secure a way out for the speaker, however, they themselves suffered many blows.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mass arrests of opposition activists underway in Georgia

В Грузии идут массовые аресты оппозиционных активистов

Today, eleven opposition activists were arrested in Georgia, including ten members of ex-Speaker of Parliament, Nino Burjanadze's party "Democratic Movement--United Georgia", and also one member of the Republican party. They have all been accused of the illegal purchase and possession of weapons.

Responding to the news of the arrest of her supporters, Nino Burjanadze raised a loud cry of protest, saying that "this is a struggle between an authoritarian regime and political opponents." "The unfair and groundless arrests of persons will lead to sense of impunity in the country, and will most definitely be met by civil opposition. The signs are already here," said Burjanadze at a press conference in Tbilisi on June 11. According to Burjanadze, all responsibility lies with president Mikheil Saakashvili, minister of foreign affairs Vano Merabishvili, and other top officials.

The Republican party released a similar statement condemning the authorities' actions. Both parties have appealed to the international community, legal defense organizations, and representatives of the diplomatic corps with requests to monitor the ongoing situation.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Salome Zurabishvili: The only thing that is saving Georgia from destruction is this wave of protests

Грузию спасает от разрушения только волна оппозиционного протеста: Саломе Зурабишвили

"If the wave of protests in Georgia cease, then the country will be threatened by a new wave of destruction and repression," stated leader of the opposition party "Georgia's Way," ex-head of the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Salome Zurabishvili at a rally in Tbilisi. In her words, "we stand here in order to save our army from destruction."

As for dialogue with the government, in Zurabishvili's opinion, the authorities' talk about the necessity for dialogue is just "for show." She revealed that, during a forthcoming visit to Georgia by representatives from Western countries [the visit of EU Special Representative Peter Semneby], the opposition intends to show that the Georgian public is asking for dialogue, but that it is the authorities who are not willing to engage in dialogue, because they do not want to admit that the country is in crisis.

The Georgian opposition has been holding demonstrations since April 9. They are demanding that Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili resign.

Two activists from Nino Burjanadze's party missing

В Грузии пропали двое представителей партии Нино Бурджанадзе

Two youth activists, Darejan Gujejiani and Tamara Naveriani, from a youth organization sponsored by the "Democratic Movement--A Unified Georgia" party headed by ex-Speaker of Parliament Nino Burjanadze have gone missing in Georgia. Today at a gathering of opposition party members, Marina Salukvadze addressed Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Eka Zguladze, saying "we demand that measures be taken quickly to search for these young women." According to Salukvadze, at around 3pm, a black jeep began to pursue Gujejiani and Naveriani. The girls had just enough time to phone for help.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Matthew Bryza: US will help Georgia defend its "remaining territory"

США помогут Грузии защитить свою "оставшуюся территорию": Мэтью Брайза

In an interview with radio station "Echo of Moscow" , Deputy Assistant US Secretary of State Matthew Bryza stated that the US will never recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The American diplomat stated that Russia had been provoking the situation in the zone of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict during the last four years, and that the US had convinced Tbilisi not to give into the provocations.

"We had successfully convinced Georgia to be patient, to not react to any of these provocations, and up to a point, we were successful. Up to August. Ultimately, it was just too much. We have said, and I myself have said many times, that Georgia made a mistake when it launched the attack on Tskhinvali. But the war didn't start with that attack. The war had begun several days, even a week, before this," stated Bryza.

Matthew Bryza also believes that the missions of the OSCE and UN in the zones of the Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian conflicts should be continued.

Answering a question about the delivery of arms to Georgia, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State stated that the US never delivered offensive arms to Georgia. "Other countries did that," he remarked. As for deliveries of anti-tank and air defense munitions, Bryza said that "they were only for defense."

"Now we are helping Georgia develop a new approach, a new military doctrine. We must help them think differently. To think that, first of all, it needs to defend its territory. I mean, well, you understand, territory. I don't mean Abkhazia and South Ossetia, I mean the remaining territory. And to prepare Georgia to make contributions to international operations in other countries, including in the framework of NATO, in the future," said the American diplomat. "We believe that if we help the Georgian army be professional, this is good for both Russia and Georgia. And I would add that currently, Russia is not fulfilling its obligations according to the agreements of August 12, September 8 and UN resolution 1866. Because Russia has the obligation to withdraw its forces to pre-war positions. And Russia has increased the number of forces. Earlier, they numbered 4,500 ; now they number more than 10,000. Russia is going in a different direction, one that does not coincide with its obligations, " he stated.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Georgia begins deployment of armed divisions to Abkhazian border

Грузия начала наращивать свои вооруженные подразделения на границе с Абхазией

Georgia began deploying armed divisions to its border with Abkhazia on May 5. The statement was made today by the President of Abkhazia, Sergey Bagapsh. According to incoming reports, armed divisions are actively moving towards the border, he noted. The president of the republic said it was difficult to determine a possible reason for the troop movements, citing that they could be a result of recent events in Georgia or related to NATO exercises currently being held in Georgia.

Monday, March 30, 2009

"We cannot allow a civil war; therefore, we must be very careful"

Гражданской войны допустить нельзя, поэтому мы должны быть очень осторожны


The Georgian opposition has begun preparations for large-scale protests set to begin on April 9. Leader of the party "For a United Georgia", ex-Speaker of Parliament Nino Burjanadze, told special correspondent Olga Allenova of the prospects for a new "velvet revolution" in Georgia.

-- Your supporters were arrested for buying arms. And now there are rumors going about that your party is preparing for a coup. What do you have to say to this?

-- The way the arrests happened is very strange. They happened at five in the morning. The chairman of our party in Adjara called us and said that 25 special-ops officers had burst into a home. Neither the neighbors nor lawyers [i.e. prosecutor's office] had ordered the special-ops. Naturally, the neighbors refused to sign the report that nearly an entire arsenal of "Mukha" grenades was found in the bathroom. I don't think that people who know that they're being investigated would store such weapons in their bathroom. After this there were a series of other arrests, and we saw some very strange footage.

-- You mean the footage released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in which a couple of your supporters can be seen discussing the purchase of arms for the April 9th demonstrations?

-- We simply don't know who most of these people shown in these clips are. We have no connection to them whatsoever. In these clips you can see that there were attempts to pressure these persons into buying heavy arms, such as suggesting that they buy 10-16 automatic weapons instead of one pistol. We haven't seen footage in which the actual transactions take place, and moreover, footage which would make it clear whether or not this was an organized group.

-- You want to say that these persons could have been buying pistols for themselves?

-- It's hard for me to prove that. If someone broke the law, be he a member of my party or someone close to me, he should answer for that. But there is footage which I know for sure was recorded a year ago. In one of the clips, there is a man who, along with his wife, joined our party two months ago. But he's just a rank-and-file member of whom there are more than 15,000. This man has no relationship of any kind with those people who make decisions in the party. And how this man turned up in our office at 6 am is a mystery to me. And, of course, why is he looking directly at the camera, and saying lines that no one usually says? As a lawyer and the spouse of a former general prosecutor, I can say that I've never heard of a criminal case in which a person comes to buy heavy arms and tells the seller what they're needed for. Moreover, that he's preparing for a coup.

-- Are you suggesting that this incident was directed against you and your party? Why?

-- The President has always been rather afraid of me, and he never did trust me, even though I never gave him the slightest occasion to doubt my sincerity. But he knows my character. While I stood by his side, I supported him, even in very uncomfortable situations that hurt my image, but, having left for the opposition, I'm in it until the end. And he understands this. For him, this is dangerous. Because he knows that Nino Burjanadze is a person who's recognized not only within the country, but also abroad. A person who has a name, authority, and opinions that are considered. And that's why it's important for the president to make my party out to be radical.

-- You say that you're ready to go to the end. What does that mean? Will you enter into negotiations?

-- Negotiations could only be about the resignation of the president. His actions have made it impossible to talk about anything else. Negotiations could be held to discuss how to minimize the harm his resignation would have on the country.

-- You're speaking of early presidential elections?

-- Yes.

-- But it's clear that the authorities won't agree to this.

-- If they will not see the firm resolve of the opposition, then they won't agree [to early elections].

-- Has it occurred to you that, as a result of this scandal surrounding the heavy arms, you might have lost your authority?

-- I'm sure that the majority of people don't believe this story. The people understand that the government is the party actively talking about a coup, and that it's simply trying to prove that which it has thought up. And this has put the people on their guard. But I'm sure that a lot of people will come out on April 9. The people are disgusted by what's happening in their country, especially after August. Much depends on how the opposition will conduct itself. If we can make the most of these 10 days, I'm sure that we can have a serious demonstration.

-- And what if during the demonstration someone fires a shot in the crowd and you can't control the fallout?

There is that risk. But if you're afraid of wolves, don't enter the forest. It's necessary to take all precautions to prevent any shots from being fired, or any violence from breaking out. But we can't rule out anything--especially when dealing with this government. And from what I can tell, they plan to use force. And they're looking for an excuse to do so.

-- Can you rule out the possibility that April 9 might mark the beginning of a civil war?

-- I hope that this won't be the case, and I will do everything to see that this doesn't happen. As of now, there are no indications that there should be a civil war. An overwhelming majority of the populations has a negative opinion of Saakashvili. We cannot allow a civil war. And generally speaking, the country will not endorse a plan of action that would involve war. Therefore, we must be very careful.

-- And why are you not willing to wait until the end of the president's term? Or does the transfer of power in Georgia always happen on the streets?

-- To wait and allow the democratic institutions to strengthen is the ideal option.  But this government has done some much harm to my country and committed such crimes that it is pretty much impossible to talk about any constiutional term. Snap elections are also a normal European solution. After what happened last August, any normal government would have resigned. And as long as Saakashvili is in power, we have no guarantees that Georgia won't lose even more regions by 2013. This is a tragedy for our people--what happened in August. And all our president says is "So what, so we lost a few regions." We need a leader who is willing to fight for every last piece of land, and not necessarily by means of war, willing to fight for a democratic country.

-- But the authorities are saying that it was impossible to avoid the war.

-- This war could have and should have been avoided. The fact that today I'm criticizing Saakashvili does not mean that I approve of Russia's actions. Russia has acted entirely inappropriately, respecting neither the territorial integrity nor sovereignty of Georgia, nor the interests of the Georgian people. To say that Russia respects Georgia and the Georgian people, but doesn't like Saakashvili is not a very serious argument. The Georgian people were bombed, not Saakashvili. Georgian villages and cities. And territory was seized, when South Ossetia and Abkhazia were recognized, not from Saakashvili, but from the Georgian people. It became clear last August that we were being provoked. It was necessary to think two moves ahead before going to war with Russia.

-- You see this war as a Russian provocation?

-- It was a provocation. Saakashvili fell for it and dragged the country into war, a war which from the very outset was clear would be lost.

-- You recently had a meeting with the US Ambassador to Georgia and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bryza. What did you discuss, if it's not a secret?

-- There are no secrets. I believe it's important that representatives from friendly nations shoud know the real situation. They see one side of the story from the government, which is broadcast on TV, and we show them the other side.

-- Do they see April 9 as a real threat?

-- Certainly, everyone is watching the situation very closely because any sane person can see how serious the situation has become. And, of course, these people want everything to end peacefully, by constitutional means. And we desire the same.

Eduard Shevardnadze: "If I were Saakashvili, I would step down"

"На месте Саакашвили я бы ушел": Эдуард Шеварднадзе

Ex-Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze stated that "if I were Saakashvili, I would step down." At a meeting with journalists, the 81 year-old Shevardnadze expressed his opinion that "if a hundred thousand or more people gather at the April 9 demonstrations, and they demand Saakashvili's resignation, then, I think, the president should not oppose the people, but should respect the will of the people and resign."

In response to the question, "Have you had contact with Saakashvili?", Shevardnadze answered: "It's already been several years since I last met with him or spoke with him over the phone." Shevardnadze also denied media reports that he intended to make a return to politics. "I'm a pensioner, and I am not meeting with officials nor Georgian politicians. Talk of my returning to politics or power is nothing more than a fairy tale."

Saakashvili has not once stated that he intends to resign before the end of his term in 2013. Authorities emphasize that the fate of Georgia--a country with a population of 4.5 million people--"cannot and should not be decided by 100 or 150 thousand demonstrators."

Monday, March 23, 2009

European Commission finds that Saakashvili initiated the "August War"

Комиссия ЕС признала, что инициатором августовской войны был Саакашвили

The European Commission, tasked with investigating last August's war in the Caucasus, has found that Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili initiated the military conflict. The report was released on March 23 by the weekly paper Der Spiegel.

Der Spiegel's Moscow correspondent Uwe Klussmann writes: On August 7, 2008, General Mamuka Kurashvili, commander of the Georgian peacekeepers deployed in South Ossetia, appeared on national television and stated that Georgia had decided to "restore constitutional order in the region." And with that began the five-day war between Russia and Georgia which quickly escalated tensions between the East and the West, -- "to the most dangerous levels since the end of the Cold War." According to Der Spiegel, the European Commission singled out Kurashvili's television appearance as the primary factor. "His statements serve as proof that the president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, was not concerned with any 'Russian aggression,'
which he to this day claims to be his motive for invading South Ossetia, but rather was planning an offensive war. In fact, Kurashvili cited "Georgian Order Number 2" on August 7--a document which could answer the question as to who began this war," writes the author of the article.

"It is believed that the Commission's report, which is expected to be released early this summer, will mention that over the course of several years, Russia provided those living in South Ossetia with Russian passports. Experts in international law see this as an interference in Georgia's internal affairs. Nevertheless, the findings of the European Commission indicate that Tbilisi is more to blame than Moscow. Those close to the Georgian President have been reacting nervously to the Commission's efforts, like Temur Yakobashvili, the "Minister of Reintegration" of the breakaway provinces, for example. Now, he is spreading rumors that the Commission is financed by "Gazprom," says one source.

The Commission is made up of diplomats, military officials, historians, and experts in international law.

[Click here to read the original Der Spiegel article (in English)]