Igor Giorgadze: Fights for Georgia

IGOR GIORGADZE: FIGHTS FOR GEORGIA

Moscow News (Russia)
July 21, 2006

By Dmitry Starostin The Moscow News

The Georgian opposition leader has dreams of building another
Switzerland

The man that some Georgian politicians have compared to bin Laden,
whereas others see as the country’s future savior, has been on the
international wanted list for the past 11 years, moving frequently
between undisclosed countries abroad. The son of a Soviet KGB general,
Igor Giorgadze, in 1973, graduated from the KGB Higher School in Moscow
and was sent to work in Georgia. In 1980-81, he fought in the war waged
by the USSR in Afghanistan as part of the Kaskad special task unit. By
the time the Soviet Union disintegrated, he had reached the rank of KGB
lieutenant general. When Georgia’s first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia,
was toppled, Giorgadze threw his support behind the Military Council
("triumvirate") that came to power in the country in March 1992. In
1993, Giorgadze was appointed Georgia’s state security minister. In
1995, Igor Giorgadze left the South Caucasus state after an alleged
assassination attempt on President Eduard Shevardnadze. The ruling
authorities accused him of masterminding the attack and charged him
with terrorism.

In 2001, Giorgadze’s supporters in Georgia formed an opposition party,
known since 2003 as Justice. It also serves as an umbrella group for
the Anti-Soros Movement and a charity foundation.

On May 23, 2006, Vladimir Kolesnikov (then-deputy prosecutor general
of the Russian Federation) said that Russia might grant Igor Giorgadze
political asylum. The Georgian Foreign Ministry immediately protested
the move.

An MN correspondent met with Igor Giorgadze in one of the FSU states.

You have denied any involvement in the assassination attempt on
President Eduard Shevardnadze on August 29, 1995? What happened on
that day?

A presidential election was set for November 1995. By that time, my
disagreements with Shevardnadze over Georgia’s future had come to a
head. April and May polls showed that I was far ahead of Shevardnadze,
as were Aslan Abashidze then-leader of the Georgia region of Adzharia
and Dzhumbert Patiashvili, a former secretary of the Central Committee
of the Communist Party of Georgia. I made it clear that as state
security minister

I would not allow ballot rigging.

An easy way out of that situation was to stage an assassination attempt
on Shevardnadze and then crack down on his political opponents. In its
wake, about 400 people were arrested. Not surprisingly, Shevardnadze
won the election.

Are the people who you say were involved in the act still alive?

Yes, they are.

Do you know who they are?

Shota Kviraya, then-interior minister, and people in charge of
Shevardnadze’s personal security.

There were 14 defendants and 365 witnesses in the 1997-98 trial of the
alleged masterminds and perpetrators of the assassination attempt. None
of them testified against me or produced any physical evidence.

You returned to politics in July 2001. Presumably, you managed to
convince a certain part of the Georgian business community that you
had good political potential.

Luckily, many Georgian businessmen immediately saw through the
"rose revolution." It was a travesty. Shevardnadze was hated so much
that had he appointed a successor (as Yeltsin had), he would have
been torn into pieces. About two years before the 2003 parliamentary
elections, the Saakashvili-Zhvania-Burdzhanadze troika was cast as an
opposition. As a matter of fact, they were Shevardnadze loyalists,
his followers. Many businessmen both in and outside of Georgia saw
that. And this is how I acquired money and support.

It was to a very large degree through the Russian media that we
managed to galvanize the Georgian population into action. (Georgian
television imposed a virtual news blackout on our activities.) Three
weeks ago, 1,500 party activists marched to the administrative border
with the Republic of Adzharia, to the checkpoint that Saakashvili had
solemnly bulldozed in May 2004. Georgian television showed footage
of the action for just three seconds and from an angle that showed
not more than 20 people.

What was the aim of the action?

There was only one demand: The present government must resign. Early
parliamentary and presidential elections should be held. Georgia
is continuing to slip into a dangerous confrontation with Abkhazia,
South Ossetia, and Russia.

The ruling authorities had not expected that. Nor did they expect
8,000 people to turn out at a protest rally in Tbilisi. The resistance
movement is gaining momentum.

So there is going to be a real revolution in Georgia – not a rose,
but nettle revolution.

There is a view in Russia that the older generation of Georgians tend
to favor rapprochement with Russia, whereas young people are looking
to the West.

This is a delusion. We have a very large proportion of young people
among our party members. Young people can see clearly the results
of confrontation with Russia. They can see that their parents, elder
brothers and sisters work hard all through the year to gather a good
harvest, but then are unable to sell it. The border with Russia has
been closed. The vast Russian market, sought after by the United
States and China, was abruptly closed by Saakashvili because he
suddenly decided that Russia was bad.

The confrontation with Russia was provoked by a group of people who
are still being paid by George Soros. We have the worst kind of a
puppet government in Georgia.

In February 2005, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania died under
mysterious circumstances. Do you think it was an accident or an
assassination?

You can stop any Georgian in the street and he will tell you that it
was murder. The Zhvania family also knows this. Consider: Experts from
the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) came to the conclusion that
the concentration of gas in the apartment where Zhvania and regional
governor Raul Yusupov were found dead was insufficient for killing two
persons simultaneously. The FSB report was translated into Georgian
to mean exactly the opposite: The gas concentration had been lethal.

I was not surprised.

You have said that should you come to power, you could start an
effective negotiating process with the breakaway republics of Abkhazia
and South Ossetia. Meanwhile, some people in Abkhazia are saying:
"Better Saakashvili than Giorgadze. If Giorgadze becomes president,
Moscow will force us to come to terms with Tbilisi."

Abkhazia is heterogeneous, as is Georgia. Since there were people
in Georgia who started the war, so there are people in Abkhazia who
are thus far happy with the status quo. I do not want to criticize
or condemn them. Everyone has a right to uphold his own position.

I can only say that unlike the incumbent authorities, I and my
supporters are campaigning for the reunification of Georgia, not
territorial integrity. These are very different things. Saakashvili
and his team simply want to regain control of these territories by
force. Their main goal is to stick a Georgian state flag on the border
with Russia.

What is really important for me is that our Abkhaz and South Ossetian
brothers remember that there are Georgians who were opposed to this
war right from the start. It was not Georgia but its irresponsible
leadership that started a war against them. We cannot possibly
live in a state of constant war. All conflicts will be resolved one
way or another. Only we would like to take a shortcut to peace. We
recognize Russia’s status as a guarantor of security for the Abkhaz
and South Ossetians. This does not make us the Kremlin agents: We
are pro-Georgian politicians who want to use peaceful means to bring
back into the family fold ethnic groups that were deliberately pitted
against one another. If our party comes to power, we have incomparably
better chances of sitting down at the negotiating table with them
and settling the conflict. This is the central issue in the current
political standoff.

You said earlier that if the incumbent regime stays in power, Georgia’s
disintegration could go even further with Samtskhe-Dzhavakhetia
Armenians and Kvemo Kartli Azeris breaking away.

The people of Dzhavakhetia have repeatedly demanded an autonomy
status. They never did under the Soviet rule or under Gamsakhurdia or
under Shevardnadze. This means that all is not well in our state. And
even though the Azerbaijani authorities are attempting to pacify
Georgia’s ethnic Azeris, I do not rule out that they could also make
this demand.

But disintegration will also move along other lines. A group of U.S.
Senators who recently visited Georgia said there were no obstacles to
Georgia’s accession to NATO without Abkhazia or South Ossetia. Yet
there was no reaction from the Georgian ruling authorities because
they are relying on NATO tanks and combat aircraft to enforce control
over the restive territories. This is where our positions diverge.
You can return these territories, but it will not be a whole Georgia.
You will end up with another Palestine. But we want to build another
Switzerland.

What do you expect from Saakashvili’s visit to Washington?

I believe that the main subject of discussion between Saakashvili and
Bush will be the solution to the South Ossetian and Abkhaz conflicts.
I think that Saakashvili will ask for sanction to use force, but
intuition tells me that the United States will not give him its
blessing. Nevertheless, the Saakashvili team will attempt to escalate
the situation in the zone of the South-Ossetia/Georgia conflict. The
situation in Abkhazia is somewhat different. Abkhazia is no good for
a blitzkrieg, which is exactly what Georgia’s incumbent rulers want.

Do you maintain friendly or business-like relations with Aslan
Abashidze?

No. We had a meeting after he left Adzharia, and I understand that
he has quit politics for good.

Do you think you will become the next Georgian president?

This is a question to the Almighty. Only He knows. I will become
president if the people decide so. If I knew that someone was ready
today to steer Georgia in the right direction, I would be happy to walk
together with this person all the way and cede him the leadership.MN

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