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The Congress of Georgian Peoples is a pro-Russian institution

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, May 19
Russia is trying its best, officially and unofficially, to make ethnic Georgians leave the country. Sometimes they are deported in a most inhumane way. Sometimes however Russia treats them with more respect, seeking to demonstrate to the world that Moscow is against the Georgian leadership and not the Georgian people.

To further such a policy the Kremlin decided, after its open aggression against Georgia last August, to give an extra function to the Georgian Diaspora in Russia. It started turning it into a political force which could actively interfere in the political life in Georgia for the benefit of Russia. In Georgia itself you can hardly find a serious political force or leader with an open pro-Russian orientation. However there are still some smaller parties in Georgia who either naively or through self-interest declare that a Western orientation has proved damaging for Georgia. As an alternative they suggest establishing good neighbourly relations with Russia, saying that this will solve all Georgia’s problems, including restoring the territorial integrity of the country. Of course such an approach is very simplistic and unrealistic, but it is aimed at discrediting Georgia’s Western aspirations. The usual argument its proponents use is that Georgia’s Western orientation has made Russia angry but the West has not protected Georgia sufficiently.

Some ethnic Georgians who now live in Russia have openly declared their pro-Russian orientation and wish to participate more actively in Georgian internal politics. Moreover they claim to be able to involve hundreds of thousands of Georgians now residing in Russia in their schemes. One recent event which clearly demonstrated what these people are up to was the Congress of Georgian Peoples held in Sochi on May 14-15. The most notorious aspect of this event was the appearance there of a certain businessman, Alexander Ebralidze, who has a Georgian name but no knowledge of the Georgian language. This man claimed he had tolerated the situation in Georgia for a long time but was now fed up and had decided to become Georgia’s President. After he announced this at the Congress the Russian media immediately disseminated reports headlined “Georgians find substitute for Saakashvili,” or some variant on this, as Russian newspaper Kommersant has explained.

Ebralidze is a successful businessman from Saint Petersburg. Some say he has good relations with Prime Minister Putin who is from the same city. Ebralidze’s ambition is to create a political party, participate in the elections, defend the interests of Georgians residing in Russia and generally pursue a pro-Kremlin policy. He has said that Georgia should be a neutral country, not a member of any military alliance, and that Russia should be a strategic partner of Georgia.

The Congress also featured many Georgians who left the country after Saakashvili assumed the Presidency, who criticised Saakashvili’s policy and encouraged Moscow to actively interfere in Georgian affairs. Rossiskaia Gazeta interviewed a participant of the Congress and quoted him as saying that Moscow should not be simply an observer of what is going on Tbilisi as Russia is genuinely interested in the stability of its southern neighbour. How representative the Congress is of the views of Georgians living in Russia no one can tell, but the agenda of those who selected its speakers, sent out its invitations and conducted these interviews is obvious, as is who might benefit from these activities.

If Ebralidze wants to be President his major problem is that he is not a Georgian citizen. Furthermore, a Presidential candidate has to have been residing in Georgia for at least 5 years before being allowed to run for the Presidency. Ebralidze has also been twice convicted of criminal offences in Russia. The Chair of the Georgian Central Elections Commission Levan Tarkhnishvili says that, due to these factors, even if Ebralidze becomes a Georgian citizen he will not be able to obtain registration as a Presidential candidate. Maybe Ebralidze does not recognise the jurisdiction of Tarkhnishvili, but he would have to obey the present Georgian Constitution like everyone else.

Ebralidze is unfazed. He has stated that he will start moving to Georgia in June and will establish a World Congress of Georgian Peoples. “There is no doubt I’ll move to Georgia,” stated Ebralidze in one of his interviews. It looks as if Russia is launching a complex attack on Georgia.