Chief of the General Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces, Major General Vladimer Chachibaia, weighed in on former military servicemen’s social media campaign against the ruling party-endorsed presidential candidate Salome Zurabishvili.
In a statement issued on November 13, Chachibaia stressed “any attempts to entangle” the army in political processes are “dangerous” and “go against the interests of the army and the country.”
“The army is a politically neutral state institution, the key objective of which is to protect the country’s sovereignty and independence … the army belongs to every citizen and consists of members of our society regardless of their ethnic, religious or political belonging,” he said.
“The presidential election enables Georgian citizens, including those representing the Armed Forces, to express their civic right and make their choice [through voting],” he also noted.
The statement came less than a week after Lieutenant General (retired) Devi Chankotadze, Chief of the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces in 2009-2012, issued a video address, where he spoke against Salome Zurabishvili’s controversial Russo-Georgian War-related remarks.
Dressed in a camouflage uniform and standing at Mukhatgverdi military cemetery, Devi Chankotadze said Georgia’s next president and commander-in-chief “cannot be a person who accuses the country of starting the war.” “I am sure that Georgia will make a right choice.”
The Defense Ministry was quick to denounce the video address, warning against attempts to politicize the Armed Forces, but Chankotadze’s statement prompted tens of other former servicemen to take to Facebook and speak against the ruling party-supported candidate.
Not all seemed to be on board with Chankotadze, however. The State Service for Veteran Affairs, a governmental agency dealing with veterans affairs, issued a statement on behalf of eleven retired brigadier generals accusing the former Chief of the Joint Staff of “deliberate politicization” and of “stirring confrontation” in the Armed Forces of Georgia.
“We, the Georgian servicemen, veterans, officers, soldiers of our country, who defended the country’s territorial integrity in Abkhazia, Samachablo (Tskhinvali Region), and in the 2008 war, will not let anyone use the Georgian army for political purposes,” reads the statement.