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The Daily Beat: 13 March

In a Sunday interview with the ruling party mouthpiece – Imedi TV, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili linked Tbilisi protests against the Russian-style “foreign agents” law to “destructive, anarchist and extremist forces,” saying their purpose was to sow “chaos and destabilization” in the country. Prime Minister slammed the young protesters, describing them as radical, politically motivated, and linked with the opposition United National Movement and its “satellite” organizations. “I saw the pictures of several youths, I was left astonished – they were wearing Satanist uniforms,” Garibashvili said in an interview, leaving Georgians guessing about his sartorial preferences. The Prime Minister also reiterated his conspiracy theory tying together the failed EU candidacy, the European Parliament’s resolution on ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, Saakashvili’s arrival in Georgia, and the war in Ukraine. He raged against MEPs and Ukraine, saying they are bent on dragging Georgia into war.

Prime Minister’s outlandish comments unleashed an avalanche of condemnation and ridicule from opposition leaders and international partners. “If you really think so, maybe Europe isn’t the place for you,” Estonia’s former president Toomas Ilves quipped about Garibashvili.  “We must be prepared for the reactionary shift following the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday,” Giga Bokeria, former national security council secretary and leader of the European Georgia party warned.

At least PM Garibashvili’s words gave satisfied one man: the raving cheerleader of Russian warmongering propaganda, Vladimir Solovyov wrote in his Telegram channel: “He is a real man; he has balls.”

The newly elected public defender Levan Ioseliani addressed the recent protests in his first press-conference and said the rally overall was peaceful and the use of force by the police was unjustified and in specific cases – clearly excessive. He called for a prompt and effective investigation. Ioseliani had a tough week – he was appointed the same day the protests started, on March 7. As someone endorsed by the ruling party, he did not have the protesters’ confidence. Yet, he indicated his firm intention to stand by all decisions and recommendations by his predecessor, Nino Lomjaria, who was reviled as a pro-opposition and pro-Saakashvili figure by the Georgian Dream.

President Salome Zurabishvili met National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in DC during her US visit. The key White House advisor praised Zurabishvili’s “advocacy for a unified and inclusive approach” to fulfilling EU conditions for candidacy and noted “shared concern” about the draft legislation “to register and stigmatize civil society organizations for receiving external funding. He also welcomed the government’s decision to withdraw the two draft laws, according to an official readout by the White House. Russian PM’s representative in informal talks with Georgia, Gregory Karasin said Zurabishvili “underwent a tough drill” to “fall into line with anti-Russian sanctions.” Will Tbilisi “show character and independently define its line of behavior?”- asked Karasin rhetorically.

Don’t miss a beat!

According to the data released by the national statistics office, foreign trade increased by 12.3% in the first two months of 2023, amounting to USD 2.9 billion. Exports showed a 20.3% increase – to USD 914.7 million while imports were up by 9% – to USD 1.98 billion.

Show and Tell

An intrigue of sorts unfolded as Victor Kipiani, a founder of the think-tank GeoCase, and better known as Bidzina Ivanishvili’s personal lawyer in a legal saga against Credit Suisse, gave a series of interviews to the Armenian, Kazakh media, as well as pro-government Imedi radio station. Kipiani criticized the ruling party leader, Irakli Kobakhidze, and the government’s handling of the “foreign agent law” and its attitude towards Ukraine. His criticisms concerned more form than substance but marked a highly unusual open discord within the current ruling elite. The waters were additionally muddied as the Chair of the Parliament’s Legal Committee, Anri Okhanashvili, officially stated that since the past week, Mr. Ivanishvili no longer retains Mr. Kipiani’s legal services. Speculations were rife in social media on whether Mr. Kipiani was being positioned as the replacement for bumbling Mr. Garibashvili.


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