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Tbilisi citizens expect more of the same from Medvedev

By Eter Tsotniashvili
Thursday, March 6
After Russian president-elect Dmitry Medvedev garnered 70 percent of the vote last weekend, most Georgians took the same view as much of the world—that Russian policy will change little under Vladimir Putin’s hand-picked successor.

“Medvedev is a member of [Vladimir] Putin’s political team, so Russian politics is unlikely to change very much,” political analyst Paata Zakareishvili told the Messenger.

Ordinary Georgians are equally cynical. Tbilisi resident Lela Tskhadaia sees Medvedev as little more than a puppet. “Medvedev is [Putin’s] marionette and even Russians don’t try to hide this. He’ll only be the formal president,” she says.

“The politics will not change, as Medvedev is Putin’s heir,” concurs fellow Tbilisi resident Nana Lobzhanidze. “Putin admitted this himself when he announced that he would take the premiership under Medvedev. It’s Putin’s clan in Moscow.”

She does however hold out hope that Georgia’s relations with Russia will improve, pointing to the invitation to Medvedev’s inauguration which President Mikheil Saakashvili received this week as a “positive sign.”

Political analyst Gia Khukhashvili says major changes in bilateral relations should not be expected. “Russia will take the same course of action towards our country. It will maintain the same position regarding our NATO ambition,” he says.

However, the analyst suggests a fresh face in the Kremlin may allow for better personal relations between Tbilisi and Moscow.

“It is no secret that Saakashvili and Putin had personal conflicts which affected our countries’ relations,” the analyst told the newspaper, expressing hope that Saakashvili and Medvedev will cooperate more effectively with each other.

Medvedev took over 70 percent of the vote in the March 2 presidential election and garnered around 90 percent amongst Russian citizens in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze told journalists on March 3 that Medvedev’s victory was “not a surprise,” and expressed hope that Russia’s relations with Georgia would improve under his leadership.

“I hope he will want to improve Georgia-Russian relation. I hope he will want Russia to be not only a huge country but a democratic one with which it would be desirable to have friendship and neighborly relations,” Burjanadze said.