"[The opposition] might have killed a few young people" - Georgian PM's take on protests
Georgian PM blames opposition
Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili made unprecedented accusations against participants in large-scale protests in Georgia on March 7-9 against the proposed bill “On Foreign Influence”. In an extensive interview with the pro-government Imedi TV channel on March 12, he said that “the organizers of the protest may have killed some of the young people themselves” and accused them of extremism and intent to stage a coup.
“They want to change power and start a war”
“Their task was to cause chaos, disorder, and destabilization,” Garibashvili repeated several times. “Maybe [for this] they themselves would have killed some young people.”
He referred to recent alleged statements by Vano Merabishvili, Minister of Internal Affairs during the presidency of Mikheil Saakashvili, who served almost seven years in prison and was released in 2020.
“Merabishvili admitted that their goal is to overthrow the government in Georgia and start a war against Russia, that is, open a second front, which we have been telling our people for a whole year. We managed to avoid all these provocations, starting with the arrival of Saakashvili in Georgia (in October 2021) and including numerous others, up to the events of a few days ago.”
Vano Merabishvili said at the Ukrinform media center on March 10 that new large-scale protests would begin in Georgia. Imedi TV reported that Merabishvili allegedly said that “the new government of Georgia will fight against Russia.” Merabishvili categorically denied the allegation. “This is another comical attempt by Georgian Dream to mention me everywhere and always, without context and with fake news,” the ex-minister said.
The leading opposition party United National Movement also issued a statement deploring that “even some oppositionists believed the state media’s misinformation against Merabishvili.” “Russian propagandists and their Georgian slaves insult the Georgian people, especially the youth, whom they portray as misguided puppets. A new disinformation campaign has been launched, this time by spreading fake news about Vano Merabishvili,” the party said.
“They were dressed like Satanists”
“We heard a lot of criticism that the police went too far during the protests in Tbilisi. This is a lie and nonsense. Who started the violence? The youth wing of the United National Movement, provocateurs from the so-called Girchi movement (opposition party Girchi-More Freedom), and anarchists from the Franklin Club.
I saw some photos. I was amazed, they were dressed like Satanists. Youth who do not want to show their faces.
What is happening here is disturbing. This organization, the collective national movement, has turned into an extremist organization and is a little closer to becoming a terrorist organization.”
“Students, you are being used! And many have already called me and apologized.”
“They say that Ukraine suffered losses from 800 billion to 1 trillion dollars. What will put this country on its feet? Twenty million have left. And these people, who know all this, are trying to bring destabilization and war into our orderly and peaceful country.
We will be uncompromising. We will use all legal means at our disposal to ensure that the actions of such individuals do not go unanswered.
We tell them [students]: do not become an object of manipulation and an instrument of struggle in the hands of some political parties. I appeal to our students: you are being used! These [political] charlatans are deceiving you, telling you that the [ruling party] does not want the European path.
I’ll give you the facts. And let the representatives of the National Movement, this fascist organization, bring the facts. What did they do to promote Georgia to Europe? Nothing. The work on visa liberalization was delayed for three years, and this is what we took up and did. The EU association process has been abandoned. All [their statements] are a myth, a lie.
I saw that many familiar people, families came to the rally. But then a lot of people called me and apologized, they said they thought something was really going on.”
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“Attention to the defense of the country, to overcome the challenge of the anti-Georgian movement “Girchi”
“Our main task is to create a strong reserve. We are a small people, we have a strong military tradition, we are good warriors. And we do not want such a harmful policy, which was pursued by the Girchi pariah, to spread in the country. One of our primary motives was to fight it.
I am not ashamed to say that this is an anti-Georgian phenomenon and an anti-Georgian movement.
They tell the healthiest and strongest young people that they don’t have to serve their country, they don’t have to join the army. And for this you need to become a false priest, a member of a false church. This is a tragedy, this is a tragedy. More than 10,000 young people have been misled,” the prime minister said.
The opposition party Girchi is in favor of the abolition of compulsory military service and is actively campaigning in this direction. According to Georgian law, clergy and students of theological seminary have the right to deferment from conscription. In 2017 Girchi established an alternative religious organization called the Christian Evangelical Protestant Church – Biblical Freedom, which ordains those who join and issues them a special certificate for submission to the military registration and enlistment office.
“The European Parliament better take care of itself”
“Mikhail Saakashvili has hired lobbying companies around the world. In the US alone they officially paid a million dollars. And this would have been clear through our law on foreign influence.
As a result, we would have learned that Saakashvili, through his mother, hired lobbyists and paid a million dollars for their work, including in Europe.
Let’s talk about the European Parliament. I was asked about their resolution [with an appeal to refuse the adoption of the law on foreign agents].
The European Parliament better take care of itself. A hundred deputies are involved in the corruption scandal. Are they still brainwashing us?
During these riots, when the confrontation between the special forces, the police and the aggressive crowd flared up, several European parliamentarians said that it was necessary to change and overthrow the regime. It’s anti-democratic.”
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Zelensky is “motivated to change something in Georgia”; Ukrainian politicians are “vile losers”
“[Ukrainian President] Zelensky [urged Georgia not to adopt a law on foreign agents]. The person who is now at war decides to react to the destructive action that several thousand people are carrying out in Georgia. This is direct evidence that this person is involved, motivated to make something happen here, change.
Klitschko (mayor of Kiev), Feygin (video blogger), other obscure people, Ukrainian politicians, Arakhamia (head of the ruling faction in the Ukrainian parliament) – some vile losers who say that [Georgia] needs a coup.
This is direct interference in the internal politics of another country. I don’t want to talk about them now. I want to wish everyone success, a timely end to this war and peace.
And I want to wish our country unity. Take care of yourself and take care of the country — that’s what I want to say to everyone.”
On February 17, 2023, the Power of the People movement, which is affiliated with the ruling party, registered two bills for consideration in Parliament – On the Transparency of Foreign Influence and On the Registration of Foreign Agents.
On March 7, the bill “On Transparency of Foreign Influence” was adopted by the parliament in the first reading by 76 votes against 13.
Then, according to the procedure, both bills were sent to the Venice Commission.
The process was accompanied by rallies on Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi. After the adoption of the bill in the first reading, the protest swelled to many thousands. Authorities twice dispersed tens of thousands of people with tear gas and water cannons.
All organizations and politicians, both in Georgia and abroad, say the bill was modeled on a Russian law, and said that its passage would be a huge obstacle for the country on its way to the European Union.
Then on March 9, the ruling party said it was withdrawing the bill. On March 10, during the second reading in Parliament, a majority voted to reject it. This time, 35 deputies voted against, and just one deputy supported it.
One of the authors of the bill, Dmitry Khundadze, said that by not adopting this law, Georgian society “missed an opportunity.”