This week, mass protests took place in Georgia after the decision of the ruling Georgian Dream Party to adopt a draft law on foreign agents. This document actually copied a previously adopted law in Russia. The Georgian people, who have repeatedly spoken out in support of the country’s European integration, opposed the government’s intentions.
At first, many protesters were detained. On Thursday, March 9, Georgian Dream withdrew the draft law. And all the detainees were released.
Kyiv Post spoke to Giorgi Vashadze, a former deputy minister of justice under President Mikheil Saakashvili and a member of the Georgian parliament, about what is happening in Georgia now and whether the protesters are satisfied.
What is the current situation in Georgia? Have the protests stopped?
There will be no rally today [the interview was recorded on March 10]. The authorities fulfilled two promises. First, they revoked the law. There has never been such a process in Georgia, with the parliament revoking a law in 30 seconds. This was thanks to the Georgian people, who forced them to do it. We will definitely have a coordinated meeting of the opposition with the civil sector and various activists.
Second, they released all the detained protesters. But there was a statement from the Ministry of Internal Affairs that they would investigate all cases in detail. Therefore, our task is to ensure that none of the participants in the process, who are fighting for their country, are deemed criminally or administratively responsible.
But this is not enough. The next step is to implement the 12 points that the European Union gave us for future membership.
Does the Georgian government have the political will to fulfill 12 points from the European Union?
The government is connected with Russia. This is a completely Russian regime. Our task is to remove them from power as soon as possible. We will definitely achieve this. Because you saw that upwards of 100,000 people took to the streets, it was impossible to stop the youth. This is Georgian energy, Georgian blood, which showed that we love our country. And there will never be anything Russian in Georgia.
Everyone was shouting “Putin huylo,” [Putin d**ckhead] and everyone connected with Russia – “huylo.” Including the Russian oligarch Bidzina Ivanashvili [founder of the Georgian Dream Party], who made his money there.
Will the protesters demand re-elections to the parliament?
So far, there is no such requirement. Everything is step-by-step. First of all, the 12 EU requirements must be fulfilled as soon as possible. Also, there should be no criminal or administrative responsibility for the youth who protested. Free the judicial system from the clan, and carry out deoligarchization. Then we’ll see.
Currently, the government is very weak, it’s very scared. Of course, these people will not give up so easily. We have the same type of regime that was in Ukraine under Viktor Yanukovych.
The most important thing is that Europeans, Ukrainians, and Americans are absolutely sure that the power in Georgia rests with the people. Georgians will never be under Russia. It is impossible.
Since you mentioned Yanukovych, I have a follow-up question. Is the current president Salome Zurabishvili, a sort of Yanukovych? Was she not involved in the preparation of the draft law on foreign agents?
First of all, we have a parliamentary republic. The president has a symbolic role. But personally, as one of the leaders of the opposition, I do not trust her directly. Because if Zurabishvili wanted to participate in this process, she could pardon political prisoners. This is one of the mandatory issues regarding integration with the European Union.
She was chosen by Georgian Dream, she is Ivanishvili’s protégé. Therefore, there is zero trust in her. So far, Zurabishvili only comments on everything, but no real steps.
What other demands can the protesters have? For example, will there be a demand to establish assistance to Ukraine in the war with Russia?
Asking the pro-Russian regime to establish some kind of relationship with Ukraine, I think, is surrealism rather than realistic. But the Georgian people do everything to support Ukraine. On Feb. 24 [the anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine], we organized a large-scale action in the center of Tbilisi on the anniversary of the solidarity of Georgians with Ukrainians. Everyone saw that Georgian society has nothing to do with government policy.
Will there be a demand to release Saakashvili?
So far, the protesters do not have such a demand. But Saakashvili needs to be released in order to transfer him to treatment. And he is a political prisoner in Georgia. In general, among the points that the Georgian authorities have to fulfill, there is a demand to release political prisoners.
Why do you think that in Georgia, in the presence of a military conflict with Russia, a pro-Russian government still came?
This is hybrid warfare. For the last two years, all over the world, and in Ukraine. I personally say that a hybrid war is being waged against Georgia. An armed group called Georgian Dream was created, which plays the role of a pro-Western party, but is actually a pro-Russian force. This is a hybrid war on the part of Russia. Because in our country, no pro-Russian party has ever had high support, or ever entered the parliament. So, they tasked their oligarch Ivanishvili with moving to Georgia and gaining power in 2005.
I will tell Ukrainians honestly: be wary of such a political force that shows itself to be pro-Western but is ready to cooperate with the enemy. This will be the next generation of hybrid disinformation war, which the Russians will start in Ukraine because they understand that they will lose this war.
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