Russian Watchdog: Kremlin Interferes in Georgia Polls, Aids Alliance of Patriots
Dossier Center, a Russian investigative project established by the prominent Kremlin critic, Mikhail Khodorkovsky to track criminal activities of Kremlin-associated persons, released an investigative report on August 24, claiming that the election campaign of the Alliance of Patriots, a Georgian nativist party, is backed by Russia.
According to the report, Kremlin is placing its bets on Vice-Speaker Irma Inashvili and David Tarkhan-Mouravi, the leaders of Alliance of Patriots (AP) party, for the upcoming October parliamentary polls.
“A pre-election budget, worth millions, has already been drafted,” the report reads. It does not, however, provide any documentary proof of the sums being disbursed. Only the first part of the investigation has been released.
Puppet Masters from the Kremlin
The report details the network which handles the relations with the Alliance. The key coordinating role is allegedly played by the Presidential Directorate for Interregional Relations and Cultural Contacts with Foreign Countries, formed by Vladimir Putin in 2005 with the initial goal to counteract so-called “color revolutions” (a term coined by Russian analysts to describe the removal of post-soviet leaders through popular protests in the early 2000s. The term emerged after Georgia’s “Rose” and Ukraine’s “Orange” revolutions).
The Directorate is led by Vladimir Chernov, General of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). According to Dossier, he is a close associate of President Vladimir Putin’s friend, his former chief of staff, Sergey Ivanov. The key positions in the Directorate are reportedly held by former staff members of Federal Security Services (FSB), Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (GRU) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).
Dossier Center bases its investigation on documents lifted from Chernov’s secretariat, including working documents, analytical reports, financial estimates, election manuals, and operational reports.
Chernov’s office reportedly hired Sergey Mikheev – a Kremlin-associated “election expert” to promote the AP for Georgia’s October parliamentary elections. Mikheev reportedly has been recently deployed to handle the latest developments in Belarus as well. He was apparently sanctioned by the European Union on Lithuania’s initiative in 2014.
Mikheev, the report said, is supervised by Chernov’s direct subordinates – FSB Colonel Valery Maksimov and GRU officer Valery Chernychov.
Moscow-based company POLITSECRETS, headed by Vera Blashenkova, a Russian campaigner and author, is in charge of the direct promotion of ‘Patriots’. Blashenkova claims to have been engaged in election campaigns in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Russia, including for the ruling United Russia party.
According to the leaked documents, Russia has mobilized media agencies, including “Sputnik Georgia”, “EurAsia Daily”, REGNUM, and political center “North-South” to provide AP with information support.
The investigative report claimed that Mikheev had sent a USD 700,000-draft budget to the “Staraya Square” (the location in Moscow where the Presidential Executive Office is situated) at the beginning of the year. The budget covers services of political consultants, including transportation and accommodation fees, however, costs may rise should the second round in some majoritarian constituencies become necessary. According to Dossier, “USD 700,000 was found somewhere, and the work kicked off”.
The budget covers services of political consultants, including transportation and accommodation fees, however, costs may rise should the second round in some majoritarian constituencies become necessary.
The nativist party allegedly wanted to benefit from “the Inashvili-hosted TV-program” “Magic Box” which would offer prizes worth USD 700-1000 to low-income families; however, Mikheev reportedly had warned AP against potential legal consequences due to vote-buying charges. (MP Inashvili is frequenting the program as a guest, she is not its host, however – Civil.ge’s editorial note).
Aside from USD 700,000 requested by Mikheev for his services, Alliance of Patriots reportedly handed Moscow a USD 8,430,625 budget proposal to cover party’s campaign expenses, “a huge amount for poor Georgia,” as the report noted. A comprehensive list of expenses includes funds needed for souvenirs, media-expenses, central and regional offices, etc.
Specific Campaign Activities
Some of the Blashenkova’s recommendations for the Alliance of Patriots, as disclosed by Dossier, include:
- Working with undecided voters;
- Taking votes away from larger parties, including the governing Georgian Dream party (GD), opposition United National Movement (UNM) and Kremlin-friendly Nino Burjanadze’s United Georgia – Democratic Movement.
- Fueling protest sentiments among Georgian voters, including by breeding public discontent, even if it is “beneficial for UNM/UG-DM and completely detrimental to the GD”, by articulating current problems and negative future scenarios. Potential grave scenarios include economic and political consequences of tensions with Russia should the UNM regain the power, U.S.-ordered experiments with minors in terms of “early sexual education”, against a rise of tolerant attitudes towards the LGBTI+ community, etc. POLITSECRETS has already prepared some campaign videos with infographics depicting problems in demography and crime rates.
- Fueling up envy and greed among ordinary voters by shaming fancy lifestyles of government and opposition elites against the background of the general poverty in the country;
- Vote splitting to prevent forming potential parliamentary coalitions through smear campaigns against their opponents, including by pointing at their aggressive attitudes towards each other and their inability to reach agreements.
Interestingly, the report said, Blashenkova has also requested information on persons openly supporting Alliance of Patriots.
Reactions from Tbilisi
MP Irma Inashvili slammed the allegations as “absurd,” noting that the party was ready for such “attacks.” She confirmed that the Alliance of Patriots has hired a Russian agency for the election campaign (without naming it) but said they also employ services of the unnamed four U.S. and two Israeli companies.
Following the release of the Dossier’s report, MP Elene Khoshtaria, leader of the European Georgia party, filed a request to the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia demanding an investigation. Khoshtaria listed potential violations of the campaign rules and the election code, including receiving funding from a foreign country, espionage, and acts directed against the state.
MP Mamuka Mdinaradze from the ruling Georgian Dream party commented by saying that “in case a fact of funding from the occupying country is confirmed, it has to be definitely followed up properly.”
According to the report released by Transparency International Georgia, a local watchdog, the revenues of the Alliance of Patriots in 2019 stood at GEL 1,676,618 (USD 543,000), making it the second after the ruling Georgian Dream party which received GEL 9,502,653. AP’s expenditures for the same reporting period comprised of GEL 1,671,775.
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