The Battlefield – Mikheil Saakashvili

Russian political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky’s two-part play ‘Gaidar’, published in a separate book in summer, about the economist and father of Russia’s free-market reforms, Yegor Gaidar (1956-2009), points out that Gaidar was willing to repent for his reforms in public, but that it was not in the best interest of his ‘literary’ (i.e., in the play, not in his life) surroundings.

One of the main leitmotifs of the biographical book on Gaidar, already published in summer by the expert of Russian domestic politics from Carnegie Moscow Centers Andrei Kolesnikov and a writer, columnist and publicist Boris Minaev, is that the author of free-market reforms of Russia didn’t want to live anymore after he had completed the reforms and saw what came out of them.

According to one of the authors Andrei Kolesnikov, the fate of the reformer is not merely tragic, because he did complete his work (not only of reform, but also of the structure of the institutions of the Russian state), and Russians are now living in the reality that they were destined to live.

But – it is true – the economist died young, and even his comrade at the time, Anatoly Chubais, who was interviewed at the end of the book, pointed out that the man did not really want to live in his last years.

This example is as an analogy (of course, with the obligatory element of sparkling vitalism in the South Caucasus, which is teetering even on the edge of danger) is, however, possible, with the twists and turns of the fate of Mikheil Saakashvili, who is currently trying to make a difficult attempt at going back to his homeland, and of whom we have already written about in our article ‘Mikheil Saakashvili as a Factor in the Relations Between Ukraine and Georgia’.

We pointed out that the third President of Georgia, while holding high office in Ukraine, has always been driven to his homeland, which is unique in the current circumstances. For example, opposition politicians forced to flee Russia no longer say they will return when everything calms down.

Because they know it won’t calm down. Only Alexei Navalny came back from Germany at the beginning of the year, and we all know what happened to him.

On 8 December, Mikheil Saakashvili announced that he was stopping his treatment at the military hospital in Gori in protest against the disciplinary measures imposed on him. According to the politician, on the morning of that day, the report of the state inspector on the fine imposed on the Ministry of Justice for violating his rights was published.

Some six hours after the publication of the report, a pair of prison guards, whom the prisoner identified as the ones who had tortured him, appeared in his cell to inform him that the Prison Department had decided to impose disciplinary measures on him, including restrictions on visits and on watching television.

After which his mother, although she had full permission to visit her son, was held for about 4 hours outside the prison and eventually sent back to Tbilisi. Mikheil Saakashvili’s personal doctor was also prevented by prison guards from visiting his patient for about an hour before the hospital administration intervened.

The imprisoned third President of Georgia claimed that this was a revenge for the state inspector’s report.

On 29 November, the Georgian authorities nevertheless brought Mikheil Saakashvili to court, after the previous hearing on 11 October had been held without his presence. The Ministry of Justice of Georgia justified their decision by the defendant’s critical health condition after a hunger strike that lasted over a month.

In the current trial, third President of Georgia was accused of ordering the dispersal of a protest rally on 7 November 2007 and of being responsible for the destruction of the office of the opposition TV channel Imedi.

In Tbilisi mass actions by the then opposition (the current ruling party Georgian Dream) demanding resignation of Mikheil Saakashvili broke out on that day, and the police used water cannons and tear gas against the protesters.

Their chase was broadcasted live by Imedi, the TV channel owned by Russian-Georgian business oligarch Arkady (Badri) Patarkatsishvili. The police broke into his office in the evening and interrupted the broadcast.

300 to 600 people were affected by the unrest of 7 November, according to different estimates, and the country was placed under a state of emergency for 11 days. Later, Georgian authorities claimed that Russian special services had contributed to the unrest.

Already in the current trial, Mikheil Saakashvili claims that he had no influence on the suppression of the unrest and that it was sanctioned by the Minister of Interior (who was convicted and convicted again for this, incidentally). He also repeated the thesis about the Russian special services, information about which he had been given personally by Aliaksandr Lukashenka (!).

In 2007, when the NATO Membership Action Plan for Georgia was practically settled, Arkady Patarkatsishvili met generals of the Russian Federal Security Service in Belarus. Moscow needed some confusion to disrupt and it succedded.

At the court hearing on 2 December, Mikheil Saakashvili said he would not accept the corruption charges and considered them an insult. He also recalled that the only time the World Bank had published a book on curbing corruption; which was done by the only country in the world, Georgia.

The next hearing was also postponed to 29 December because of the lack of clashes between supporters of the third president and law enforcement officers who use tear gas against them outside the Tbilisi court. 15 people have been detained.

Mikheil Saakashvili also told the court that his experience in Ukraine, where he developed his resilience and for which he is very grateful to the Ukrainian people, has helped him to endure the inhumane measures taken against him.

Talking about Ukraine. On 23 November, the Ukrainian volunteer Pavel Kashchuk and six companions were not allowed to enter Georgia to support Mikheil Saakashvili not for the first time. On 20 November, the Georgian special services also deported Ukrainian human rights defenders Vera Iastrebov and Pavel Lisyansky, who were planning pickets in support of the third president of Georgia.

The next day, a volunteer posted on Facebook that he was perplexed by the non-release of the Imedi (same) report. The TV channel called him an experienced military expert of Mikheil Saakashvili’s group (the opposition party National Movement? – A.S), which was trying to destabilise the situation not only in Georgia, but also in the whole world, and to organise a military coup.

The reportage reminded of the style of the TV megaphone Russia Today.

Pavel Kashchuk is a military instructor who trains Ukrainian snipers and has also trained members of the Georgian Legion in Ukraine. There is also information in the open files that Combat UA, founded by him, is a military organisation called to assist the Ukrainian special services.

Gia Volski, a member of the Georgian Parliament from the ruling Georgian Dream Party, has publicly stated that Pavel Kashchuk is working for Mikheil Saakashvili’s National Movement to realise its plan to destabilise Georgia. The visits of other Ukrainians to Georgia are the same. As if all of them are not friends of Georgia.

Mikheil Saakashvili remains a factor in relations between Ukraine and Georgia.

On 23 November, an action to mark the 18th anniversary of the Rose Revolution was organised in Tbilisi. In the evening, two chains of people marched down the central Rustaveli Avenue towards the Parliament, with cars signalling in favour, and the police were forced to temporarily stop traffic. Alongside posters and flags, some participants held roses as a symbol of the 18-year old events.

On 23 November 2003, three weeks after the parliamentary elections and the protests by Mikheil Saakashvili led opposition, which did not recognise the results, the then President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze stepped down. The confrontation then was non-violent, hence the name Rose Revolution, with many of the protesters carrying flowers to the protests.

Georgian political analyst Gia Khukhashvili sees the current prosecutorial base for the third Georgian president as weak, especially when prosecutors often try to replace documented, logical arguments with political statements.

Mikheil Saakashvili is not a prisoner of conscience, and his presidency has been full of everything, not just reforms. However, the political interest of the current government is also evident, and the third President of Georgia must be considered a political prisoner

According to the political scientist, there are no social surveys on how much Georgians trust and distrust the trial against Mikheil Saakashvili. On the issue of the third president, the society is divided into three groups, with about equal proportions of Georgians believing categorically the opposite; that Mikheil Saakashvili was put in jail justly, or that he is being imprisoned unjustly.

The largest third group, however, is concerned about other issues – they do not trust the current government, but they also do not want to see a return to the era of the third president.

The political situation in general is confusing, and Mikheil Saakashvili is likely to try to take advantage of the confusion at some point and make a sharp move; however Gia Khukhashvili says he does not know what move it will be.

In conclusion, it may not be a sin to repeat the thesis of the first text (‘Mikheil Saakashvili as a Factor in Relations Between Ukraine and Georgia’) by adding to it. Mikheil Saakashvili’s difficult return to his homeland, no matter what, is a test for the current Georgian authorities – whether they will be able to act civilised or not, whether they are different from authoritarian Russia or not.

Even though the ruling Georgian Dream cannot stand Mikheil Saakashvili.

His presidency, albeit with a few twists and turns, has reined in the rampant corruption and criminality. Whatever one thinks of the third president of Georgia, it was not scandals but reforms that dominated his reign – and the current Georgian government has long acknowledged (for example, in an interview with the president on 15 October 2017 on the Russian television channel Dozhdj) that the country had built up a state infrastructure that has worked and continues to work efficiently for the benefit of society under the rule of Mikheil Saakashvili.

During Mikeil Saakashvili’s presidency (2004-2013), the country’s GDP per capita grew by 4.5 – from $920 to $4200.

It will not be good for the future of Georgia if the assessment of the professor from Tbilisi University Ilya Georgy Nodia of the current government proves correct: the Georgian government is trying to ‘look good’ in the eyes of Washington and Brussels, but this does not mean that it is really committed to democratic values. It would be particularly ominous if the signs of retreat from democracy in Georgia were to increase.

Arūnas Spraunius

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Autorius: Voras.online