What the Karasin-Abashidze talks were really about and why they sparked protest in Georgia
Georgian activists held a protest following the November 27 virtual meeting between the Georgian Special Representative for Relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze and Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Grigori Karasin.
Protest was not caused by the meeting itself – which for several years has been the traditional format of negotiations between the two countries which have not had diplomatic relations since 2008 – but by a report that appeared on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry claiming that the meeting “was devoted to the prospect of resuming air traffic between the two countries, but that this depends on the change in the mood in Georgia towards Russia.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry also said that during the conversation, Zurab Abashidze agreed with the opinion that the large-scale protests which ended with many wounded on June 20, 2019, which went down in local history under the name ‘The night of Gavrilov’, was “an anti-Russian provocation organized by Georgian nationalists.”
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Zurab Abashidze denied this report, and said that the events of 2019 were not mentioned at all at the meeting with Karasin, and the message of the Russian Foreign Ministry was “an interpretation of the Russian side.”
However, many in the public did not accept this explanation.
A spontaneous protest rally took place in front of the Georgian parliament, which ended in a clash with the police and the arrest of two activists.
Opposition politicians and civil activists took part in the demonstration. First, the crowd gathered in front of the Foreign Office. The Soviet hammer and sickle were drawn on the sidewalk in front of the building and the inscription ‘20%’ (meaning that 20 percent of the territory of Georgia, that is, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, is occupied by Russia).
The protesters then went to the parliament, where they wanted to paint graffiti on the temporarily erected metal fence in the area, but the police did not allow it to be removed.
Here a fight broke out with police and two activists were detained.
One of the leaders of the European Georgia party, Giga Bokeria, said that ‘the message from the Russian Foreign Ministry showed how the Abashidze-Karasin negotiation format betrays national interests.’
“This is another example of how disastrous the Ivanishvili regime is,” Bokeria said.