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Georgia is making more progress than Russia, says Minister

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, April 8
Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili stated in an interview with the online edition of Russian newspaper Kommersant on April 7 that the Russian-Georgian war is still not over but Russian-assisted opposition forces in Georgia will not be able to defeat the Government in the elections.

“The war is not finished yet, but we are winning in the field, we are stronger. As long as there is talk in Russia about the successful reforms in Georgia we are winning, as reforms and democracy are one and the same concept. Such kinds of reforms are not taking place in Russia.

"We and Russia have different ideologies and values. During the war in 2008, when there were still official contacts with the Russians, Givi Targamadze (Chairman of the Defence and Security Committee of the Parliament of Georgia and one of the leaders of the National Movement) offered Russian soldiers 50,000 dollars to bomb the Stalin monument in Gori. Although they wanted the money, they were insulted by this suggestion and refused,” Merabishvili said.

Asked whether he was trying to underline Russia’s continuing attachment to Soviet ideology and Georgia’s preference for European values by saying this, Merabishvili said: "You said it. I can also express this differently: there are two ways we can go, to European culture and to nowhere. We have chosen the first way. But you? What positive thing has happened in your country lately? You have a hostile attitude towards your neighbours, your armed forces and people are continually on a war footing. What has been built in your country during the last ten years? That is why you will never be able to win the war against Georgia,” Merabishvili said.

A significant part of the Minister's interview was dedicated to the upcoming elections and the opposition's chances in these. "The opposition cannot win these elections, as the Government's rating is the highest and is 64% in Tbilisi. There are few states in the world where the ruling party has 64% support in the capital. We have this rating not simply because we are good rulers: the opposition have shown the public their real faces. Georgian opposition representatives who visit Russia will not affect the present situation,” said Merabishvili. "Irakli Alasania (leader of the Alliance for Georgia) will not become the President of Georgia, he has no chance. Alasania is Shevardnadze (former President of Georgia)'s revenge seeker,” he added.

The Minister also talked about Georgian-European relations and mentioned that the sensible part of the West loves Georgia but Georgia makes its decisions on important issues alone. According to the interview transcript he said, "We make our decisions and do not listen to anyone. Have you been to our military base in Karaleti? Our special task groups and soldiers there have panzer cars, “cobras”. The Europeans were against us buying these cars, as it might irritate Russia, but we did not listen to them.” However the Interior Ministry has subsequently stated that all the other quotes in the published interview were true but this one had been taken out of context.

Merabishvili’s statements about the opposition’s election prospects produced an immediate response from leader of the Movement for Fair Georgia Zurab Noghaideli, who party is part of the National Council. "If Merabishvili dares to falsify these elections he will answer for this with his life. This is not a threat, this is a warning for him. No one needs advice and lessons from such cowards as Mikheil Saakashvili and Vano Merabishvili. I warn them not to dare election falsification,” Noghaideli said.

Zurab Abashidze from the Alliance for Georgia told The Messenger that the Minister is inadequate. "It is very difficult for me to make comments on such inadequate people as Saakashvili and Merabishvili. This person has already committed the greatest crimes against the Georgian people and is responsible for the death of each Georgian killed during the August war in 2008. All he says is far from the truth,” Abashidze said.

Analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze told he Messenger, "It seems that Georgian Government representatives are quite happy to make such provocative statements about Russia and think that this strategy will be more profitable. Reforms took place in Georgia until the August war, but we lost an important part of our territory. As for the upcoming elections, both the Government and opposition have a chance of winning them. An Interior Minister making such statements before the elections is not acceptable, as he should be neutral and not the mouthpiece of any side,” Sakvarelidze said.