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Ex-Ambassador reveals informal talks in the Government

By Temuri Kiguradze
Wednesday, November 26
Erosi Kitsmarishvili, former Georgian Ambassador to Russia, has been questioned by the Parliamentary Commission investigating the August conflict. The hearing ended controversially after Kitsmarishvili stated that Georgia had had plans to start military actions in the conflict regions since 2004.

The former Ambassador said that the Georgian Government wanted to start a war in the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia several months earlier than in South Ossetia. He added that Israeli military instructors helped the Georgian Army prepare for the invasion of Abkhazia. He stated that President Saakashvili spoke to him in March 2008 and said that he was going to “move the capital of Georgia to Sukhumi [capital of Abkhazia] in August.” However the planned operation was not started for unknown reasons.

Kitsmarishvili said that Russia had prepared for an invasion of the Georgian breakaway regions in 2008 but Georgia started the military actions in South Ossetia in August. This statement contradicts the Government’s position that Georgia merely responded to Russian aggression. He added that the operation in Ossetia had been planned back in 2004, but the Georgian Prime Minister of the time, Zurab Zhvania, was against the operation. Zhvania was found dead a year later. The former Ambassador accused the Government of an inability to conduct a dialogue with Russia and resolve the issues of the conflict peacefully. He also stated that the West had been informed of Tbilisi’s plan to invade South Ossetia in August. According to Kitsmarishvili, the USA gave a “green light” to the operation.

The hearing of the Commission lasted over three hours, often marred by verbal sparring between Kitsmarishvili and the Commission members. Head of the Commission Paata Davitaia accused Kitsmarishvili of not fulfilling his duty as an Ambassador and promised to ask the Prosecutor’s Office to start a criminal case against him. The session finished with an incident between Kitsmarishvili and Givi Targamadze, a senior lawmaker from the ruling party, during which Targamadze threw a pen in the direction of Kitsmarishvili after an exchange of insults. Just before the incident Kitsmarishvili told Targamadze something with his microphone turned off, meaning that what he said could not be heard by others. The ex-Ambassador left the hearing after this incident.

Members of the Commission accused Kitsmarishvili of disrespect, and also noted that Kitsmarishvili was defending Russia and repeated “the statements of Russian propaganda.” Davitaia stated that “it’s a pity that such a man was chosen as an Ambassador.” They also presented information detailing an alleged connection between Kitsmarishvili and a Russian security service agent. Before this Kitsamirishvili had accused members of the Commission of “spy-mania.” This statement caused a brawl between him and MPs

Commenting on the session Georgian independent political analyst Gia Khukhashvili said that it had been “catastrophic” for the Government representatives and had confirmed once again that the Commission was unable to conduct an independent investigation. He evaluated the actions of MPs as “overemotional.” Khukhashvili said that Kitsmarishvili’s statements showed that the Government is in “deep crisis” and may cause a “chain reaction of important changes.” He did not rule out the possibility that Kitsmarishvili would have “personal problems” as a result of his comments.

One of the Leaders of the Georgian opposition, Levan Gachechiladze, supported Kitsmarishvili’s statement and said that November 25 was a “historic day for Georgia.” Speaking on Kavkasia TV Gachechiladze appealed to Kitsmarishvili to “continue telling the truth to Georgian society like he did today.”

Kitsmarishvili was once owner of the most popular Georgian TV station, Rustavi 2, which played a decisive role in the Rose Revolution. He was appointed as Ambassador to Russia in February 2008 and was recalled in July, after the Russian Federation admitted violations of Georgian airspace. The former Ambassador was a close ally of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili until September, when he made a statement accusing the Government of not taking proper steps to avoid the conflict.