PM Ivanishvili suggested that ‘borderisation’ process carried out by the Russian troops across administrative boundary lines of Georgia’s breakaway regions is related to Russia’s preparations for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
Speaking at a televised meeting with a group of Georgian political analysts and commentators on September 25, Ivanishvili said that he expects much to be “clarified” in Russian-Georgian relations after the Sochi Olympics.
Responding to a question on ‘borderisation’ process, involving installing fences along the South Ossetian administrative border and creation of earth berms and ditches at the Abkhaz administrative border by the Russian troops, Ivanishvili said: “What should have we done? Should have we launched war again or what? I raise this issue during all of my meetings [with foreign dignitaries and delegations] whether here or abroad… I disagree if someone thinks that we are trying to paper over this issue.”
Opponents, including President Saakashvili and his UNM party, criticize the government for what they say is a policy of appeasement with Russia, which they say is perceived by Moscow as Georgia’s “weakness”, resulting into seizure of more lands by shifting administrative border line in South Ossetia deeper into the Georgian-controlled areas.
“I am not sure whether I should say it publicly or not, but as far as I know formally or informally, including from Europeans, everything what is now happening, involving placement of barbwires, is related to the Olympics. Now the entire Russia is focused on this issue to somehow hold these Olympic Games peacefully. On our part, we are doing all we can to create conditions for that and to maximally help them [Russia],” PM Ivanishvili said.
He said that the arrest of a Russian citizen from Chechnya, Yusuf Lakayev, was part of Georgia’s efforts in this regard.
Lakayev was arrested by the Georgian police in Batumi on September 13 after the shooting incident in which three people, including Lakayev himself, were injured. He is in the list of individuals, which, the Russian security agencies claim are suspected of having links with “extremism” or “terrorism”. Lakayev is also suspected of killing a Russian diplomat in Sokhumi, the capital of Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia, on September 9.
“We will do everything in order to help in holding of these Olympics in dignity and [Georgian athletes] will also participate in the Games,” Ivanishvili said.
“Much will be clarified probably after the Olympics. At this stage all these barbwires, I think, is not even in the interest of [Russia], but the Olympics is of major importance for Russia,” he said.
“[The United] National [Movement] will now seize upon these remarks of mine and start claiming that I justify installing of these barbwires as we help [Russians] with Olympics. I am not justifying it, it is very difficult and we try to stand by with local population affected by [borderisation],” the Prime Minister said.
Asked about appointment of Vladislav Surkov as President Putin’s aide for relations with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, Ivanishvili responded: “I do not think it changes anything in principle in respect of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”
“We should return not territories, but our brothers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia; we should create such conditions, which will convince them that it will be better for them to live with us – that’s the only way that can yield results. We made lots of mistakes,” Ivanishvili said.
He also said that Russia has and will have its “role” in the process, but also added that he wants this role of Russia to diminish at the expense of increasing “weight” of Abkhazians and Ossetians.