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Russia's plans for Georgia

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, April 20
No one can deny that Russia’s attitude towards Georgia is very clear. On the one hand it is very aggressive and brutal, on the other Russia wants to give it a more civilized form. Therefore it is trying to mobilise the Georgian Diaspora in Russia and elsewhere to create the illusion that it is not Russia but ethnic Georgians who are against current Georgian leadership.

In the light of this we can evaluate the initiative of Alexander Ebralidze, a Russian businessman of Georgian ethnicity, to hold a congess of the Georgian Diaspora on April 22-24 in St. Petersburg. Of course the Georgian authorities are attacking this congress, saying it is part of Putin’s plan to create a confrontation between the people of Georgia and the Saakashvili administration. Georgian Minister for Diaspora Issues Papuna Davitaia thinks that Putin wants to implement a new strategic approach through the Georgian Diaspora. He says that The Kremlin is ready to finance as many people as possible to take part in Ebralidze’s forum, paying all their expenses.

The organisers of the St. Petersburg congress are indeed doing their best to organize as prestigious an event as possible. They have invited Russian President Medvedev, Premier Putin and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, though it is difficult to say whether any of them will attend. Vladimir Khomeriki, an ally of Ebralidze, has stated that its organisers have invited Georgia’s intellectuals and public figures and anyone who wants to attend is welcome, including opposition members. The only people who were not invited are members of the present Georgian authorities. However the St. Petersburg congress will be boycotted by Moscow’s Georgian Diaspora. Its leader Mikheil Khubutia has labelled it a political meeting. He says that Moscow wants to create the illusion that there is an anti-Saakashvili mood concentrated in Russia. To balance this event Georgia will hold a Day of Diasporas on May 26-27, inviting representatives of different Diasporas of Georgians around the world to Tbilisi.

A special issue is whether opposition leaders will participate in the St. Petersburg congress. Some say that they will, for instance Koba Davitashvili, the People's Party leader. It is not excluded that other opposition members will participate too, as most of them have already stated that it is necessary to conduct dialogue with Russia. Consequently ruling National Movement MP Nugzar Tsiklauri thinks that the ultimate aim of the congress is to undermine Georgia’s leadership and statehood. Tsiklauri thinks that the opposition loyal to Russia see Georgia as a vassal of Russia and not an independent and free country.

The first congress held by Ebralidze was in spring 2009, in the Russian city of Sochi, close to Abkhazia. At this time the opposition were rallying in the centre of Tbilisi, so the authorities speculated that the same people were behind both initiatives, but no evidence was ever offered. What we do know however is that the congress in St. Petersburg will certainly create extra grounds for confrontation between the authorities and radical opposition. There will be mutual accusations and labels, but one thing can be said for sure, that any type of confrontation in Georgia only benefits Russia and our enemies in general. Georgian politicians, whatever their orientation, should and do realise that.