Tbilisi Mayor Checks in Sick – Investigative Journalism Exposes Government’s Femme Fatale – Khoshtaria Traces Obscure “Hero” Businessman – Anti-Curfew Rally Planned – Locals Resist Another HPP – Viral Video Warms Hearts
Greetings from Tbilisi. Political elites prepare for renewed mediation that will surely make headlines next week. Till then, it is small, diverse discontents that point at bigger troubles bubbling up to the surface. The Dispatch and Nini, your operator, are here to update you about developments on the ground. Subscribe and find us on Twitter: @DispatchCivil
SAD NEWS FIRST Absence of the Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze from the public eye was explained in his Facebook post: “I was diagnosed with vertebrobasilar insufficiency and vestibulopathy, which why I am currently undergoing examinations at one of Tbilisi hospitals,” he wrote, saying he wanted to deliver the news himself. We wish the Mayor a swift recovery!
FEMME FATALE A new journalistic investigation conducted by RFE/RL Tbilisi probably ended a brilliant career of a female “agent provocateur” who was allegedly involved in sidelining multiple public servants. About a dozen male “victims” and “survivors” have spoken up, all describing an intelligent and extravagant blonde who honey-trapped them into exceeding their official powers – and then testified in official probes. Journalists suspect, this professional witness, who appears as prosecutor witness in multiple cases and is known by her alias “Irinola” – helped authorities in their personal or partisan reprisals. The case goes to ECtHR Strasbourg and looks promising, knowing that the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights does not favor provocateurs: Georgian state has already lost one such claim from 2005, RFE/RL reminds.
CAST AWAY? Civil.ge is an old-fashioned paper that much prefers reporting the news to being the news. Yet, we found ourselves thrown into a mediatized controversy when one of our op-ed contributors, Giorgi Paniashvili, the former Senior Counsellor at the Georgian Embassy in the UK, said he suspects being subjected to a disciplinary inquest and then pushed out of the diplomatic service for expressing his opinion in Civil.ge. Foreign Ministry retorted that Mr. Paniashvili’s career was ended by the reorganization that abolished his position. The Ministry argues it offered Paniashvili other positions which he turned down. The diplomat, however, recalls warnings on part of the Ambassador Sophio Katsarava to desist from publications.
Civil.ge is deeply saddened by this turn of events. We found Mr. Paniashvili’s pieces of public value in offering critical, but balanced and forward-looking discussion of Georgian foreign policy priorities. We are also honored that our news-line has been trusted and used by Georgian diplomats worldwide for decades. The Foreign Ministry press office said they never had objections to the diplomats sharing their knowledge and opinion with the media. We would very much like for this to indeed be the case. Here is one of the pieces that show that Georgia got talent – also among its diplomats:
LIMITS OF EMPATHY The Paniashvili controversy hit the sizzling stones: in January, questions were raised about Gigi Gigiadze, Georgia’s former Ambassador to Denmark, ending his diplomatic career. The decision came after Amb. Gigiadze publicly gave a positive personal characteristic to his longtime colleague, Iveri Melashvili, one of the experts prosecuted in the controversial Cartographers’ Case. The Foreign Minister personally tut-tuted the diplomat. As a result, Mr. Gigiadze has joined the ranks of one of Georgia’s most known think-tanks, EPRC.
OPENING CARDS Even though the Cartographers’ Case was relegated to the political back-burner lately, opposition politician Helen Khoshtaria does not intend to forget the controversy. The latest of Khoshtaria’s video-monologues – publicized by her new ‘Droa!’ public movement – traced the past of David Khidasheli, the Swiss-based obscure businessman who kudos for being “the great patriot” from Bidzina Ivanishvili himself. Mr Khidasheli apparently delivered “hidden” maps from Russia, which became the basis for the controversial case. In her Navalny-style video, Khoshtaria linked the businessmen to murky affairs in Putin’s Russia, Assad’s Syria, North Korea, with even some Stasi past dug up. “You see his business is directly linked with crime, organized crime, terrorism, Russian secret services,” the politician says, seeing the connections as proof of Russian meddling. We will wait for these to be fact-checked – and for Mr. Khidasheli’s reaction.
JEALOUS GUY And since we were on the topic of Russia – Georgian Public Broadcaster quoted today Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko, who called Georgian EU-NATO aspirations “unjustified,” adding that it will bring more escalation and instability to the region. The Deputy FM also recalled how NATO’s welcoming signals back in 2008 ended for the country, reminding us all that Georgia continues to live in constant terror from obsessive, jealous ex – and there is no one out there to issue a restraining order.
Age of Rage
- VIRAL UNREST Along with the apparent passivity among Georgians to get vaccinated, top healthcare officials intensified their “brace for the 3rd-wave” rhetoric. One reason why people cannot ignore these messages is the endless, exhaustive curfew, effective daily from 9 pm to 5 am. Continued official statements that no end is in sight for the curfew incited an anti-curfew rally, announced for April 3. Many clicked “going” on Facebook, but it is hard to predict how many will show up.
- OVERFLOW Tergi river that runs through mountains and connects Georgia with North Caucasus features strongly in Georgian culture and literature: famous Georgian writer and public figure Ilia Chavchavadze even compared its “ferocious and stubborn” character with that of Lord Byron once. Now they are putting a Hydropower plant on the river, and locals from Kazbegi Municipality won’t have it. The government usually sees anti-power-plant rage as irrational at best and politically manipulated at worst. But the activists apparently prepared themselves for a factual debate. We are curious about how this will go and will keep you posted.
- DISINFECT! Meanwhile, media reports say the Ministry of Economy will pay GEL 30,000 (USD 8,941) to advertise on social media against HPP-skepticism. No reason to worry: considering how Georgian currency continues to devalue daily – 1 USD reaching 3.3718 GEL today – the amount will soon look minimal.
#TRENDING As crises, grievances, and protests are now the new normal, this video shot in one of the villages of Shuakhevi municipality, Adjara region, went viral for a reason: the genuine emotions of a young teacher and small pupils passionately dancing in the snow warmed everyone’s hearts. The proud teacher already dropped part two online.
That’s the full lid for today. Celebrate the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics with us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!