CSOs: Plot to Murder Journalist is Part of Russian Scheme to Destabilize Georgia

The Coalition for Euro-Atlantic Georgia, a group of sixteen local CSOs, issued a statement on June 16 concerning an alleged plot to assassinate Georgian TV anchor “on orders of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov”, assessing it as part of “a Russian scheme to destabilize Georgia.”

The group raised concern that “target of a murder plot backed by the Russian government is a journalist and this move is directed against his freedom of expression.” It noted that such actions were devised to intimidate representatives of Georgian media and civil society, who are vocal critics of the Russian occupation and Russia’s expansionist policies.

The Coalition is made up of 16 local watchdogs and civil society outfits, including the Transparency International Georgia, Open Society Georgia, Media Development Foundation, Georgia’s Atlantic Council, United Nations Association of Georgia, Georgian Democracy Initiative and others.

“This foiled plot was also aimed at stirring up public anxiety in the country against the backdrop of pandemics, which might have escalated the situation to the extreme in the run-up to [October] elections,” reads the statement.

The Coalition highlighted Russia’s continued occupation of Georgian territories, coupled with “borderization” and kidnaps of Georgian nationals in the vicinities of the dividing line.

CSOs called on the Georgian government to conduct a “transparent investigation” and ensure involvement of experts from Georgia’s partner countries. They also appealed to authorities to guarantee safety of Georgian citizens “by all means possible.”

The Coalition further appealed to the Parliament to hold a hearing on the criminal case and deliberate case proceedings.

On June 15, Nika Gvaramia, director general of opposition-minded Mtavari Arkhi TV, announced at a press conference that the State Security Service foiled a plot to murder Giorgi Gabunia, a TV host, who had addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin on air using expletive-laden language last year. Gvaramia alleged that a ethnic-Ingush hitman, a Russian national, was sent to Georgia to murder Gabunia on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s orders.

As stated by the State Security Service, a Russian citizen was arrested on charges of purchasing and using forged documents. The agency said the suspect was also investigated for plotting to commit a contract killing.

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