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Flinging Russian Mud In Georgia

Giorgi Khaindrava
As Georgia heads towards protest season, the mudslinging between opposition leaders and government officials has intensified -- and the motif is cooperation, or collusion, with Russian.

Giorgi Khaindrava, former minister for conflict resolution and now an opposition leader, has openly threatened President Mikheil Saakashvili, saying he would make the president sorry for ever having been born.

Speaking on a weekly talk show "Politikuri Kvira" ("Week in Politics"), aired by Channel 1 of the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) on March 15, Khaindrava said Saakashvili will not feel safe in any country.

"We shall find him no matter where he goes and will make him sorry for ever having been born," Khaindrava said.

Much of the mudslinging centers on accusations that various factions of Georgian politics are being bankrolled by the Russians.

Saakashvili himself said on March 3, during a meeting with workers of the Railway Carriage Repair Plant in Tbilisi, that "a lot of money" has been invested in Georgian politics recently, which would "not be used for good deeds."

A few days later, the president's statement was echoed by Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, who said his ministry has "concrete facts of that type" and promised Rustavi 2 TV viewers to make those facts public -- "as soon as we confirm them."

But the opposition is not united. Merabishvili's accusations were supported by the opposition lawmaker Gia Tortladze on March 11, who chairs the Strong Georgia faction in the parliament.

According to him, Russian money is behind planned antigovernment rallies, the major one which is set to take place on April 9, the 20th anniversary of the peaceful antigovernment demonstrations, brutally broken up by Soviet special forces.

And even U.S. officials haven't escaped the accusations of working for the Russians.

Speaking on "Politikuri Kvira," Khaindrava, the former minister, accused Matthew Bryza, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, of playing the same game with the Georgian authorities and sharing business interests with them.

"Bryza does what Moscow wants him to do in Georgia," Khaindrava said. Whereupon Inga Grigolia, the host of the show, asked her guest: "Are you saying that Bryza is a Russian agent?" Khaindrava's answer: "Agent or not, I don't know. The only country which needs Saakashvili in Georgia, is Russia."

Khaindrava also accused Bryza, Assistant Secretary Dan Fried, and Bush of having humiliated the Georgian public: "They told us: you don't have the right to express your opinion -- this will be your president" -- referring to the January 2008 presidential election, which the opposition claims was rigged.

-- David Kakabadze

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