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Georgian Opposition Leader Says No Need To Fear Russian Attack

Opposition leader Nino Burjanadze
Opposition leader Nino Burjanadze
MOSCOW -- Former Georgian parliament speaker and opposition leader Nino Burjanadze says there are no grounds to believe that Russia is preparing to annex more Georgian territory, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports.

Burjanadze spoke to RFE/RL after talks in Moscow on March 4 with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. She described those talks as "interesting" and focusing on almost all aspects of bilateral relations.

Burjanadze said the main purpose of her ongoing visit to Moscow is to find out what Russian leaders' attitudes to Georgia really are and "whether there exists even minimal readiness to establish normal relations."

She said given the current tensions between the two countries in the wake of the August 2008 war in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, it is imperative to seek ways of restoring "more or less civilized and normal relations" based on mutual respect.

She said she considers it the duty of every Georgian to try to find ways out of the current strained situation between Tbilisi and Moscow.

Burjanadze, who heads the opposition Democratic Movement-United Georgia party, said the possibility of changing the Georgian government was not discussed with Putin and was not the reason she went to Moscow. She said only the Georgian people have the right to decide when elections should be held and who should lead their country.

"I have said the same thing several times before and I say again that regime change in Georgia is the business only of the Georgian people," Burjanadze said.

Burjanadze said she is not intimidated by arguments voiced by some members of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's United Georgian Movement that any opposition leader who travels to Moscow to meet with Russian leaders is a traitor and should be held criminally responsible.

She argued that it is those Georgian politicians whose actions led to the
conflict with Russia in 2008 who should be held accountable.

"Those people should be held responsible through whose actions the country lost 20 percent of its territory," she said.

After the five-day Russian-Georgian military conflict in 2008, thousands of additional Russian forces entered South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway region. Russian forces currently guard the border between those two regions and Georgia proper.

Burjanadze said she does not believe Russia intends to launch a new war against Georgia. She added that it is desirable that Georgian politicians refrain from "anti-Russian hysteria that is becoming a phobia."

Burjanadze said Saakashvili "has come to understand perfectly that his sole chance of retaining power in the long term lies in fuelling anti-Russian hysteria." She condemned that tactic as "dangerous" and "playing with fire."

She similarly denied that she has become "pro-Russian." She stressed that throughout her political career she has always acted in the interests of her country.

Burjanadze, together with Saakashvili and Zurab Zhvania, spearheaded the so-called Rose Revolution in November 2003 that toppled Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze.

She served as parliament speaker from 2004 until April 2008 when she resigned to protest Saakashvili's policies.