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!