Dispatch – March 28/29: Fooled & Fueled

Georgians Not Impressed with Calls to Open New Fronts – Fuel Prices Fuel Protests – PM Puzzles with Words, Again

As Russia keeps disrupting the peace in Europe, signs of crises continue knocking on Georgian doors too. But no worries, the ever-rational, cold and calculating ruling party leaders are here to manage all the risks. Here is Nini with the usual updates from Georgia.

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INDECENT PROPOSAL Georgians are not really excited about the latest suggestion Ukrainian Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov made about other countries opening additional fronts for Russia. Citing the recent developments such as tensions around Nagorno-Karabakh and the Russo-Japanese dispute over the Kuril Islands, Danilov was quoted as saying that it would be very helpful for Ukraine if “additional war fronts” emerge for Russia “made possible due to its actions in the recent past.” Listing the situations of territorial disputes in Moldova and Georgia and even suggesting Poland could make claims on Kaliningrad, Danilov said this would give Russia “something to do other than destroying our cities and villages, killing our women and children.”

NOT IMPRESSED Quite predictably, the statement met a big No from the Georgian ruling party. “… calling on Georgia (&others) to abandon its policy of peaceful restoration of territorial integrity, by opening the second front so that our cities and villages are destroyed and Georgian women and children are killed too? Really?” Nikoloz Samkharadze, Head of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted on Sunday, hoping that the reports were fake. But it was not only the Georgian Dream – prominent people on all sides of the aisle have long demonstrated their aversion to any conflict-driven decision, particularly when it comes to the occupied territories of Georgia: the reports about more troops leaving Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia to join combat in Ukraine is not tempting enough, apparently. 

WE’VE SEEN ENOUGH Even Nika Gvaramia, opposition media mogul and fiercest critic of government steps about Ukraine, looked astonished: “Apologies, but this is too much now,” he wrote on Facebook, comparing Danilov’s remarks to a call to assist Ukraine with the dead bodies. Gvaramia also recalled the 2008 war with Russia, arguing that Ukraine partly owes the support it is now getting from the world to blood spilled by Georgian soldiers and civilians 14 years ago.

USUAL SUSPECTS But in Danilov’s remarks, Georgian Dream Chair Irakli Kobakhidze saw more than a desperate cry for help from a man whose country is under attack. Dedicating an entire press briefing to denying any intentions of military actions against occupied territories, Kobakhidze made a key villain in the story (surprise!) the United National Movement party, or, to quote the latest GD’s truth-by-repetition rhetoric – “a party of war.”  

The party chairman observed that statements calling to move the Ukraine war to Georgia came after UNM members’ visit to Ukraine and went on to attribute many of the recent discussions to the same ill intentions. The long list of such discussions or calls included “calls to impose economic sanctions on Russia,” an attempt to send “a plane full of volunteer fighters with the government’s permission” to Ukraine, “discriminatory propaganda” against Russian nationals, “speculatory” discussions about Georgia’s military status, while Kobakhidze also argued that Volodymyr Zelensky recalling the ambassador from Georgia also served the mentioned purpose.


DO SOMETHING At least Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili is again that caring father figure who knows about the cold world outside, kindly telling you to abandon your wildest dreams and be content with what you’ve got. On March 27, scores of people marched in the streets of Tbilisi to protest the rising fuel prices. Even though it is no secret that the problem is a global one, protesters showed frustration with the government doing little to address the ensuing crises that do not only bother the car owners but the population in general as it leads to inflating prices anywhere else. The organizers also offered their solutions, part of which has also been advocated by some opposition parties. The proposed solutions include abolishing excise taxes, introducing a “floating VAT regime,” and “dismantling artificial monopolies.” Police made arrests as protesters attempted to block the roads.

BASIC INSTINCT Of course, the first instinct of the government – and PM Garibashvili in particular – was to frame the protests as organized by the United National Movement. Commenting on the discontents the next day, the Prime Minister also tried to calm the public down by telling that many other countries have it worse and struggle with unusually high inflation rates as well as fuel and gas prices far higher than in Georgia. So, there is apparently nothing to worry about, and with the information the Head of the Government provided, people can remain calm while still unable to afford things.


CHOICE OF WORDS “The world has not had such a challenge in Europe since World War II; In the biggest state of Europe, a large-scale war is taking place with Russia, in Ukraine,” PM Garibashvili said on March 28. The statement once again intrigued government critics who in vain await the day when the Prime Minister calls the things by their true names. For example, instead of repeating “there is a war” phrases endlessly, and sometimes adding toponyms only to make his attitudes vaguer and more confusing, many want him to directly say who started that “war” and show Russia the criticism it deserves. The wait continues as does the caution of his party – by the Georgian Dream standards, being more precise about such things could cost the country its fragile peace.

That’s the full lid for today. May the next issue come out in a more peaceful world. Join us every Tuesday and Friday for the incisive coverage of Georgia’s political life.