Controversy erupts over EUMM appointment
By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, February 18
According to the decision of the European Union Monitoring Mission, Ryan Grist was appointed as the Deputy Head of the EUMM in Georgia. In 2008, Grist accused publicly of being a Russian agent by the former Georgian administration – the United National Movement (UNM).
This appointment is being opposed by the UNM, which demands that the government force the EUMM leadership to dismiss Grist from his new position.
The Georgian Dream administration however does not see anything extraordinary in this appointment. As such, the coalition will not force the EUMM leadership to remove him from his position.
What happened in 2008?
When the hostilities and the war between Georgia and Russia broke in August 8, 2008, then head of the OSCE Mission to Georgia, Finish diplomat Ms. Terhi Hakala, was on holiday and the former captain of the British Army, Ryan Grist, was responsible for the OSCE Mission activities in Georgia.
His name became known after a letter was published in the New York Times on November 6, 2008. In this letter, Grist challenged the position of the Georgian leadership that argued Georgia was simply protecting itself from Russian aggression.
Ryan Grist mentioned that even if there were provocations from the Russian side, the Georgian bombardment of Tskhinvali was disproportionate. Grist stated the same position during his two briefings in August and October, 2008.
The Russians used it in support of their position as if they were innocent and exempt from any wrong-doing.
Of course, this position was not appreciated at all by UNM leadership and shortly afterwards Grist left the country.
So, almost six years later Ryan Grist is returning to Georgia as the deputy head of the EUMM.
Representatives of the current Georgian administration do not think that Grist’s conduct in 2008 was unusual or extraordinary. However, blaming former President Mikheil Saakashvili in starting the war indeed damages the Georgian position.
Russia’s planned military confrontation with Georgia was thorough. In fact they led all their moves in the direction of provoking Georgia for military activities. Of course Saakashvili swallowed the Russian bait, but this would not mean that Georgia started the war because the war in reality started well before August 2008.
The August 2008 military actions were preceded by Russian railway forces entering Georgia’s territory of Abkhazia, which reconstructed the railway connection between Russia and the Georgian breakaway territory. The war started when Moscow distributed Russian passports among Abkhazian and South Ossetian population, and when the Kremlin introduced a large amount of weapons into the Georgian breakaway territories, giving them to mercenaries but labeling them ‘volunteers’. After which, snipers from the breakaway territories began shooting in the direction of the peaceful Georgian population. Saakashvili was backed into as corner at this point.
It is hard to say whether Ryan Grist’s current appointment has additional meaning. Moreover, it should not be understood as an acceptance of the Russian version of the war scenario, in particular who started the war.
EUMM officials assure that this appointment has been made based on the experience and professionalism of the candidate and that Grist passed through very serious competition before he was selected as the final candidate.