Upwards of 10,000 protesters attempted to storm Georgia’s parliament building on June 20. The crowd swarmed the building during what at first glance appeared to an anti-government rally. They demanded the resignations of top officials, allegedly in response to a speech made by a member of the Russian Duma. It now continues on a daily basis, however, with less violence.
As reported by Georgian and Western news sources, “tensions flared up when Sergei Gavrilov, a Russian MP, addressed an assembly of lawmakers from Orthodox Christian countries from the physical seat of the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament.”
Gavrilov was taking part in the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO), a meeting of a body set up by the Greek parliament in 1993 to foster relationships between Orthodox Christian lawmakers. From a political standpoint, it will never be a good idea to allow a Russian MP to sit in the Speaker’s chair, in Georgia or any other country which fought long and hard to escape Russian domination through the Soviet Union. However it would also be ridiculous for either Georgia or Russia not to be part of the IAO, given their credentials and shared values as Orthodox countries.
One thing is certain in any such mass protest – few, if any of them, are spontaneous protests by ordinary citizens. Careful planning goes into any attempted coup or regime change—and that usually comes from the West. This has especially been the case in Georgia, dating back to the so-called Rose Revolution of 2003, and even earlier, to the free fire zone days of the early 90s.
Now Georgia is again in the news, not only over how the weaponisation of gay pride is part of a larger programme of CIA destabilisation. Little of what is happening now in Georgia has anything to do with the country’s less than pristine record on human rights, or efforts to regain territorial integrity. Still less does it have to do with the present Georgian government, which is the most benign the country has seen, and unlike previous ones is genuinely attempting to introduce the Western values the population actually want, such as democratic pluralism, rule of law and transparency.
Keep in mind that what happens in Georgia doesn’t stay in Georgia, and is more often than not part of a larger regional agenda. The real news is not as the BBC reported on June 21, Thousands storm parliament over Russian MP’s speech, but what is REALLY transpiring in Georgia with outside assistance.
Not Spontaneous and Not Ordinary
One just needs to consider the statement of Giga Bokeria, now described as “an opposition MP for the European Georgia party”, who told AFP that the rally outside parliament was “a spontaneous protest by ordinary Georgians.”
Bokeria’s track record is well-documented, as are the names of his backers. He’s a teller of BIG lies—consider his activities in Georgia dating back to the days of the US-funded Liberty Institute, which is credited with topping former president Eduard Shevardnadze and bringing Mikheil Saakashvili to power, only for him to suffer the same fate.
The appearance of Russian MP Gavrilov in the Speaker’s chair in Tbilisi was considered an insult to Georgia, given the continued Russian influence in Georgia’s two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and indeed it was, even though not intended as such by the Georgian government to cause problems. These regions effectively gained their final independence as a result of the 2008 Georgian Russian conflict, as recognised by the Russian Federation in the wake of the Kosovo precedent.
But based on years of reporting on Georgia and the region, this appears a well-crafted effort to destabilise the current government, which did not decide to put Gavrilov in the chair. This decision was made by the Greek Embassy, which is trying to improve its political position within the EU to avoid further punishing bailout terms. It fits well with the Gay Pride rallies being forced on reluctant local gays, the continued EU refusal to discuss the UNM’s many crimes and the continued liberty of Saakashvili and his worst cronies despite all the arrest warrants out against them in all the countries they have been transplanted to.
The present Georgian government has done little but say “we are not the UNM criminals, so vote for us” during its six and a half years in power. But it is more balanced in its foreign policies between Russia and the West than the Saakashvili regime was. The various headlines on US funded websites, such as Furious Anti-Russia Protesters In Tbilisi Demand Speaker’s Resignation, Clash With Police speak for themselves as to the agenda which is being rolled out—and who apparently stands behind such provocations.
Sideshow with Front Seats
I asked one Georgian journalist who lives close to the Parliament, “do you have a front row seat for what is going on in Georgia as of yesterday?” He replied, “Not only a front row seat, as I live close to the parliament, but I happened to be passing by when teargas was finally used at about midnight … and the crowd scattered like leaves.”
We both think there will be a repeat performance soon, and that interesting days are upon us. I also suspect the provocation has something to do with the 250 million USD in weapons recently funded for Ukraine, and the agenda which has been set into motion for Iran.
Georgia likes to think it is the centre of the universe, though few have heard of it, because it is on the historic Silk Road. The revival of the Silk Road has become a major international project. However this project has been constructed to disguise the real importance of Georgia’s location: as the gateway to Iran, Ukraine, Syria and any other place now turned into a trouble spot. Without Georgia, we wouldn’t be witnessing half the death and destruction we see today, and these conflicts keep Embassy holdovers in jobs.
Tired Script for Crisis Actors
Having watched the early stages of yesterday’s protest, and seen the same familiar Saakashvili-era faces during the lunch break on live TV , I am further convinced that all what transpired was, and continues to be, carefully scripted.
Upwards of 80 people are reported to have been injured in the protests, including 30 protestors and 39 police officers. Police used water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. However the media reports vary, and it is becoming difficult to get accurate information.
Georgian PM Mamuka Bakhtadze has told the press that “what we witnessed is absolutely unacceptable,” and that a demonstration that had “started in a peaceful manner,” turned “violent”.
He added that
“It is an attempt by an aggressive group, the National Movement (UNM), party of former President Saakashvili, to move Georgia out of the legal framework, but they will fail to do it… I would like to address the youth – I am beside you in your frank protest, but we have to deal with narrow political interests, which are beyond any limits… violence is unacceptable and an adequate response will be made.”
Nino Burjanadze, former presidential candidate and once acting Head of State, has described the events as being political in nature, and maintains that purported pro-Western political parties are now using the people’s anger for their own benefit. It is clear that the situation may well spin out of control if the government keeps making the same mistakes again and again. Burjanadze should know, as her peaceful protest with many protesters “beaten-to-death” was broken up by the former government back on May 26, 2011.
Many of the photos used in this referenced report by the Georgian Young Lawyers Association were contributed by Georgian Bureau Chief for US online journal Veterans Today, Jeffrey Silverman. GYLA expressed special gratitude to G. Abdaladze and Jeffrey K. Silverman as the source of an important part of the photos used in that 2011 report.
The dreadful events of that day helped bring down the Saakashvili regime. So it is ironic that the same political party, the United National Movement, is now screaming foul over its failed attempt to take over the Georgian Parliament and topple the government by violence.
What happened back in 2011 was a peaceful protest against the UNM. This time it was an attempted coup by the UNM. Most people won’t be fooled, but a significant number are always ready to be bought off, as always happens in Georgia.
What is now happening is the street is like wolves leading sheep, as this could result in the total destabilisation of the Georgian State. Georgians must be cleverer, or they could lose so much, with one part of the population turned against another because of the actions of a few. Both these protests, and further actions being planned, are part of a larger regional geopolitical plan of destabilisation, which will also harm Georgia even if it resolves its internal problems.
I asked in a recent article, who says that politics and religion don’t mix? They mix very well into the fatal cocktail almost ready to be served up on the Georgian people. As this is going to press, the protests continue, not only as a result of the initial provocation, as described but in response to the government using excessive force and rubber bullets at close range, blinding several protestors.
Russia’s reaction to the treatment of a Russian diplomat and the behavior of the protestors was to be expected, and swift, out of concern for its citizens and initial gut reaction. It will ban air flights starting in July, curtailing tourism, and have its citizens now in Georgia return as soon as possible. Most definitely those who planned these protests had this in mind.
It is hoped that those on all sides will understand who is benefiting from “bad relations” between countries, Russia and Georgia, and from division among the Georgian people. They need to carefully evaluate what has actually transpired and who stands behind such unfortunate incidents. One thing is sure, the current government has not delivered, however, the previous one is no better—change is needed and with new blood.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.