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Saakashvili's Appearance Escalates Georgia-Ukraine Relations, Threatening with Diplomatic Breakdown

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Friday, July 21, 2023
The relationship between Georgia and Ukraine may eventually reach a dead end. Saakashvili's video recording of his trial caused a great stir. Ukrainian President Zelensky immediately demanded that he be transferred to Ukraine for treatment, which the "Georgian Dream" will probably not fulfill. The next step could be the severance of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

On July 3, Saakashvili attended the trial remotely. His physical condition was visible in the video footage - it appeared that Mikheil Saakashvili has lost a lot of weight and his appearance has changed.

After the release of Saakashvili's footage, a number of media outlets and politicians expressed concern in the West. The response of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was the most acute one.

He demanded that Saakashvili, who is a citizen of Ukraine, be handed over to Ukraine. He gave the Georgian ambassador to Ukraine 48 hours to return to Tbilisi so that he could hold consultations with the Georgian authorities to hand over Saakashvili to Ukraine.

Ambassador Giorgi Zakareishvili had not yet arrived in Tbilisi from Kyiv when the leaders of the Georgian Dream ruled out holding any consultation. Such statements were made by Irakli Kobakhidze and Archil Talakvadze.

The Speaker of the Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, presented claims to Ukraine and said that "the only thing that can be consulted on" is the transfer of Zurad Adeishvili and Gia Lortkifanidze by Ukraine to Georgia.

Adeishvili holds the position of the head of the department in the General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine, while Gia Lortkipanidze is the deputy head of counterintelligence of Ukraine.

Adeishvili, who held a high position in Georgia during Saakashvili's rule, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for 5 cases, while Gia Lortkipanidze is accused of sneaking Mikheil Saakashvili into Georgia. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia considered Zelenski's decision to be "interference in Georgia's domestic affairs."

In Kyiv, the statements of the representatives of the Georgian authorities were considered 'abnormal'. This was said by Maria Barabash, head of the Ukrainian Reforms Office.

The opinion was again voiced that the solution to the created situation would be the pardon of Saakashvili by President Zurabishvili, but Zurabishvili still refuses to do so, besides, the court proceedings against Saakashvili have not been completed. Those who made statements in Georgia that nothing will change in Saakashvili's situation, do not expect a decision to be made. Gvaramia, who was recently pardoned by President Zurabishvili, noted that Bidzina Ivanishvili has to make a decision.

The Russian government stands behind Ivanishvili. "Russia is killing Ukrainian citizen Saakashvili by the hands of the Georgian government," Zelensky wrote. Irakli Nadiradze, a member of the United National Movement, states that "Ivanishvili is so afraid of Saakashvili that he is ready to break diplomatic relations with his brother Ukraine."

The relations between the two countries can really come to a dead end. Ukrainian Rada deputy Oleksii Goncharenko noted that the visit of the Georgian ambassador to Tbilisi means the freezing of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and until the Saakashvili issue is resolved, the Georgian ambassador will not be able to return to Kyiv.

Davit Arakhamia, the head of the parliamentary faction of the ruling party of Ukraine, said that if steps are not taken regarding Mikheil Saakashvili, international sanctions will probably be imposed. Tbilisi responded to these statements. Irakli Kobakhidze said that Goncharenko's opinion is 'not valuable', and Davit Arakhamia is a 'stateless person' and he does not act in accordance with the interests of either Georgia or Ukraine. Nothing was said about whose interests he acts in accordance with.

The government of Georgia again claims that there is nothing wrong with Saakashvili, he is simulating and 'resorting to self-harm'. Minister of Justice Rati Bregadze held a special briefing on this. The authorities of Georgia claim that they support Ukraine, and one of the MPs of the Georgian Dream also accused Kyiv of 'ingratitude' for the ambassador's visit to Tbilisi.

However, the Georgian opposition and the Ukrainian government consider the "Georgian Dream" to be an ally of Russia. Mykhailo Podoliak, adviser to the administration of the President of Ukraine, said that the Georgian authorities crossed several red lines:

This is the resumption of air traffic with Russia, as well as demonstrative behavior in favor of Russia. Kyiv has accumulated many complaints against the Georgian authorities, and perhaps the sight of sick and physically weakened Saakashvili turned out to be the last straw, which was followed by the reaction of Zelensky.

It seems that the Saakashvili issue will become more active in the international arena as well. Nika Gvaramia, who was one of Saakashvili's lawyers before his arrest, said three mistakes that Saakashvili's lawyers made:

1, The main line should have been maintained- Saakashvili's political imprisonment and inhumane treatment, and there should not have been a complete switch to the state of his health.

2. Statements that Saakashvili is leaving Georgian politics should not have been made, which had the opposite effect.

3. It was wrong to request a provisional measure in Strasbourg, given the practice of Strasbourg. The Georgian Dream used the rejection received from Strasbourg to its advantage.

4. Saakashvili has already made a statement about his presence in Georgian politics, thereby somewhat reducing the internal tension in his party and causing some agitation in the opposition.

The parliamentary faction of the Georgian Dream" demanded the right to meet with Saakashvili, which the chairman of the parliament has forbidden. Georgia is approaching important milestones:

At the end of the year, the European Union is waiting for the answer regarding the status of the candidate, and in 2024 the parliamentary elections should be held, the breath of which can already be felt.