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Georgia will not send any more observers to Ukraine

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, February 4
Georgian will not send observers to the second round of Ukraine’s Presidential elections, Manana Manjgaladze, the President's press spokesperson, announced on February 3. She explained that this decision had been taken in order to preserve Georgia's positive relations with Ukraine and demonstrate the country's neutrality in the Ukrainian elections.

“It was not our intention to get involved in Ukraine’s Presidential election or support any one candidate. We consider that our neutrality must be preserved and we are trying to maintain the traditional amicability between our nations. I also call on all Georgian citizens observing the election in Ukraine under the aegis of international organisations to return to Georgia. The President believes that it is up to the Ukrainian people to decide Ukraine’s fate and he wishes success to the Ukrainian people,” says the President’s statement.

Georgian citizens observing the first round of the Presidential elections in Ukraine as part of international organisations or international election watchdog groups had no problem receiving accreditation from the Ukrainian Central Election Commission (CEC). But an unusually large number of people, about 2,000, sent as Georgian Government observers were denied registration by the Ukrainian CEC. Despite this refusal several hundred were sent to the city of Donetsk, a stronghold of Viktor Yanukovich, the candidate considered least favoured by Tbilisi. The resulting controversy was exacerbated by the release of a series of taped phone conversations between Georgian senior officials, and between Ukrainian Prime Minister and rival President candidate Yulia Tymoshenko and President Saakashvili, in which it was said that the people sent by Georgia had been Government agency staff, soldiers and sportsmen rather than qualified election observers.

After these tapes were broadcast some Ukrainian politicians and Georgian opposition members and analysts accused the Georgian Government of rudely interfering in Ukraine's internal affairs. Some sharp statements have also been made about the decision not to send further observers. Zurab Abashidze from the Alliance for Georgia told The Messenger that by taking such unplanned and inappropriate decisions the Government is isolating Georgia from its neighbours and reducing its prestige in the eyes of developed and democratic countries. "It is very difficult to comment on these sort of statements. The Georgian Government changes its viewpoint frequently, and this damages the country’s prestige." Alliance leader Irakli Alasania said that "This decision is somehow hopeful, as it means that the President had seen the mistakes made, but on the other hand asking all the Georgians observing the elections to come home is another mistake, because the observers from Georgian NGOs had no problems." Leader of the People’s Party Koba Davitashvili gives a different reason for the decision. "Saakashvili has made this decision only because all the so-called observers sent to Ukraine for the first round will be arrested. What the present Government has done in Ukraine is a crime. We have a cowardly President, who with this decision is trying to rescue himself and his criminal gang,” Davitashvili told The Messenger.

Analyst Gia Khukhashvili told The Messenger, "The Georgian Government’s activities at the Ukrainian elections have made the Russian FSB’s dreams come true. Our Government has spoiled Georgian –Ukrainian relations through the observer scandal and Russia will no longer have to think how to damage their friendship,” Khukhashvili said. Zurab Abashidze said that he cannot predict how this second decision will effect on Georgian- Ukrainian relations, but "the decision made by the Government concerning the first round of Ukrainian elections was wrong. I think this one is the right decision, I cannot add more.”

The second round of the Ukrainian Presidential elections will be held on February 7.