The Dispatch

The Dispatch – March 19/20: Unmoderated Comment Section

The Envoy Departs… –  …Speculations and Accusations – Tragic Nurse Death Hobbles Vaccination – Tbilisi Fears Landslide – “Symbol of Occupation” Dies – New Evidence Linking FSB to Khangoshvili Murder – Tsulukiani to Reign Over Culture

Greetings from Georgia, where bad news is quickly overshadowed by stories even worse. The Dispatch and me, your operator – Nini – are having our ear to the ground to keep the track of all that’s going on and deliver stories in the least disturbing ways. Subscribe and now also follow us on Twitter: @DispatchCivil

…Another Failed Romance…

  • WHEN YOU TRY YOUR BEST BUT YOU DON’T SUCCEED The viral dating joke “carefully written fact-checked essay in the streets, unmoderated comments section in the sheets” used to fit Georgian politics. But that was back when political elites tried to hide how the political sausage was being made. No longer. EU Council President Michel’s Envoy Christian Danielsson saw the backroom of the Georgian politics first-hand and left for Brussels emtpy-handed.
  • SILENCE IS GOLDEN The outsiders know little about what exactly went wrong. Grandstanding remarks after the fact have all the hallmarks of truth told after the hunt… The discussion mirrors those very unmoderated comment sections we alluded to: angry reacts, gossip, unfounded claims, and mutual accusations. These seem to get their authors very few “likes” from the population – mostly from those on their payroll.
  • GOSSIP #1 Even the right-libertarian politician Zura Japaridze, otherwise enjoying the support of religiously faithful fandom, had to face a storm on his Facebook post after shaming those apportioning the blame for the failure to the opposition. Japaridze said, “nothing was on the table” –  only air. That does sound like a spin to us.
  • GOSSIP #2 UNM’s Akaki Minashvili was more specific, saying the parties failed to reach an agreement over two key issues – “political prisoners” and snap elections. GD Chair Irakli Kobakhidze, on top of his cynical form, framed those very demands as “undermining the rule of law” and “going against state interests”. Who would want that?! You guessed that right: “certain opposition groups guided from Kyiv”. Minashvili promised more protests, and those might happen, but perhaps not for the groundswell of public sympathy towards the opposition.
  • GOSSIP #3 It is the words of Vakhtang Megrelishvili, Japaridze’s alienated colleague from New Political Centre – Girchi party, who also participated in talks, that people found more relatable: “I do not understand what is going on here,” he complained. Neither does the public, who now demands transparency over the terms of the deal, particularly regarding vital judicial and election reforms.

…Wearing Smells from Laboratories, Facing a Dying Nation…

  • FATAL SHOT The mediation failure was soon forgotten as Georgians faced an event far more tragic. Health authorities, already in deep water for failing to reassure the public of vaccine safety due to reports of European countries halting AstraZeneca vaccination, now suffered another, heavier blow: a nurse succumbed to complications of suspected anaphylactic reactions after getting AstraZeneca vaccine shot. It is yet to be established, whether the first response was delayed or flawed. Health professionals have been citing statistics saying anaphylactic shocks, although recorded after Covid-19 vaccine jabs, were never fatal before. Whatever the medical conclusion, the public confidence in vaccines – already fragile – took a huge, perhaps fatal hit.
  • MAN VS NATURE Faultlines in Tbilisi took a material dimension, as the mother earth produced a crack in a ridge near Vashlijvari settlement, close to the construction site of a new road that is supposed to link to the Saburtalo area. The alarm was first raised on internet forums, seconded by experts who fear a massive landslide has already been set in motion. Political symbolism aside, irresponsible interference with nature might have played its role, experts believe. Tbilisi authorities say they are paying attention – but Tbilisites still remain in dread of what may follow, should a small trigger cause a stronger down-slope movement: as the trauma from a landslide-induced flood in 2015 still lingers.
  • MAN VS BARBED-WIRE Georgia mourns the death of Data Vanishvili, 88, a senior Georgian citizen whose story became a sad and potent illustration of the creeping Russian occupation. A resident of Khurvaleti village of the Shida Kartli region, located at the dividing line between the occupied Tskhinvali region and Georgia proper, it was in 2013 when he woke up to find himself and his house fenced away from Tbilisi-controlled territory through barbed-wires installed by Kremlin-backed South Ossetian authorities. Ever since Mr. Vanishvili became the living embodiment of the hardships endured by people in a similar situation. All visitors to the occupation line, including many high-ranking international policy-makers, met him. Now he is no more, vanishing just like the hope of so many residents.

…Nothing Hidden That Will Not Be Revealed…

  • USUAL SUSPECT Cruel policies forged in Kremlin against Georgian citizens are not limited to occupied territories, and there is more proof. Bellingcat, an independent international investigative agency that largely contributed to investigations into the Berlin/Tiergarten murder of Georgian citizen Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in 2019, reported new evidence from Ukrainian special services that add gravity to accusations against FSB – Russia’s security service being the mastermind of the murder. Bellingcat says that photos acquired by Ukrainians confirm that Vadim Sokolov, arrested in hot pursuit after the crime, is indeed Vadim Krasikov, a killer linked to FSB.
  • MORE QUESTIONS Other findings by Bellingcat speak about the link between Krasikov and Evgeny Eroshkin, a senior former FSB special operations officer, as his “handler”. This may provide a direct command link to the Russian state. We may only hope that Bellingcat would look into the possible causes of the awkward silence that the Georgian authorities kept over the murder of their citizen. (Read about earlier findings here.)

And Now It’s Official

  • The much-expected appointment of the former Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani as a Minister of Culture is now official. The Ministry of Education, Science, Culture, and Sport was split in two. So did the Parliamentary committees. MP Eliso Bolkvadze, a known pianist, will head the Culture Committee.

That’s the full lid for today. Celebrate the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics with us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!

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