Russian-American journalist Vladimir Pozner, known in Georgia for his controversial remarks about the country’s territorial integrity, departed from Tbilisi in the early hours of April 1, along with his company of some 30 Russian journalists and celebrities. Pozner, who planned to stay in Georgia until April 3 to celebrate his birthday today, left after scores of Georgians spent the noisy night protesting his visit.
Protesters, which included civic and pro-opposition activists, opposition leaders and social media users, pointed fingers at the ruling Georgian Dream Government for allowing a “Kremlin propagandist” to enter the country. Many noted that Pozner and his group were receiving preferential treatment by being permitted to hold a curfew-defying feast at a hotel-restaurant until the activists’ reaction prompted the Interior Ministry to enforce COVID-19 restrictions.
Georgian Dream Reacts
Commenting on the public outcry that followed Pozner’s visit, PM Irakli Garibashvili said “a group of our citizens decided to express protest, that was seized as the opportunity by the most destructive force, the [United] National Movement.”
“This form of protest by the leaders of the [United] National Movement and their groups, which clearly goes beyond civilized norms and Georgian standards, was completely inadmissible,” said the Prime Minister.
“We are once again convinced that UNM has formed an absolutely degraded and radical group with whom a civilized dialogue is simply impossible,” he asserted.
The Prime Minister noted that Pozner “entered the country in full compliance with the law,” albeit said breaching of COVID-19 restrictions was “unacceptable.” He asserted the relevant agencies responded immediately by fining both the hotel-restaurant where the feast was held, as well as all attendants.
Senior Georgian Dream lawmaker Mamuka Mdinaradze today underscored that the Russian-American journalist had arrived in Tbilisi on a tourist visit, with a U.S. passport and all necessary documents needed to pass relevant COVID-19 rules upon entering Georgia.
MP Mdinaradze reiterated the Interior Ministry’s statement of last night, stressing that Pozner had not breached Georgia’s Law on the Occupied Territories.
The GD lawmaker also alleged the opposition United National Movement (UNM) of deliberately attempting to sow disorder during yesterday’s protest. “In this regard, traditionally, their interests and those of Russia are in complete alignment,” MP Mdinaradze said.
In the meantime, the Russian TASS agency quoted Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary that traveling to Georgia is unsafe for Russian citizens. “The Kremlin strongly condemns the aggressive actions of extremist nationalists against Russian citizens in the Georgian capital,” Peskov said according to TASS.
“We saw today’s statement by the Prime Minister of Georgia [Irakli Garibashvili], who also condemned these actions, and we welcome this statement,” the Kremlin Press Secretary added.
Vyacheslav Volodyn, Chairman of the State Duma, wrote on his part on Telegram, that “the events surrounding Pozner’s trip to Tbilisi once again show what a deep crisis Georgia is in. Radicalism today largely determines its domestic policy, and this, of course, will not lead to anything good.”
Drawing the parallel with the 2019 unrests against Russian MP Sergey Gavrilov’s visit to Tbilisi, Volodyn said: “All this, of course, only destroys Georgia. And on the eve of the summer tourist season, it once again shows how unsafe it is for the citizens of our country to be there.”
“The paths of democracy are uncivilized: we march the hard way to the emerald city,” remarked Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova on Facebook, upon sharing the video of Georgian protesters egging the Hotel in Tbilisi where Pozner and his company stayed.