Russia’s deputy foreign minister Mikhail Galuzin believes the West is behind the recent protests in Tbilisi and continues to rock the boat, the official TASS reported. “Behind the March protests, we see the desire of the West, dissatisfied with the pragmatic stance of the Georgian authorities, to shake up the situation in the republic, persuade its leadership to support Ukraine more actively, break ties with Russia,” the deputy foreign minister said in an interview with RTVI. The high-ranking diplomat also noted that, despite the absence of diplomatic contacts between Russia and Georgia and the “West’s attempts to pressure Tbilisi,” bilateral cooperation deepens, primarily in trade and economy.
The Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, who is in Georgia, visited the occupation line at Khurvaleti near South Ossetia, witnessing the effects of “borderisation” on local communities. She also met with students and teachers at the local school and visited the IDPs settlement in Tserovani. Her visit underlined the importance of EUMM’s work, projecting Sweden’s EU presidency priorities.
Tbilisi subway stations were plastered with posters showing photos of leading opposition figures and reading “treasonous spies.” Tbilisi mayor and one of the Georgian Dream leaders, Kakha Kaladze, denied giving permission for placing these posters, noting with regret that it is widespread to put up different types of signs on various streets of the capital, which may be against the law. He also pledged to take the posters down. Opposition activists have paid hefty fines for placing critical stickers outdoors. Doubts about the ruling party turning a blind eye proliferated, as the subway stations are under video surveillance and usually feature police presence, yet nobody was apprehended or fined.
The interior ministry apprehended a 21-year-old man for “assaulting a police officer and damaging another person’s property by setting it on fire” during the March 7-9 protest rallies against the “foreign agents” law. The police said the detainee threw stones and petrol bombs during the rally, injuring a police officer. He also allegedly set fire to the police car. The charges, if upheld by the court, may land 7 to 11 years of imprisonment. But the interior ministry pledged to continue the investigation and get all those responsible for public unrest to justice. Ruling party leader Irakli Kobakhidze said the suspect “had all kinds of confused orientation” and claimed he belongs “to a Bolshevik troika” – meaning the alliance of three opposition leaders, Elene Khoshtaria, Zurab Japaridze, and Giorgi Vashadze. Khoshtaria denied the detainee was a party activist but pledged to defend him politically and in court.
Comings and Goings
Deputy Ombudsmen Giorgi Burjanadze and Ekaterine Skhiladze quit their posts. In a statement on social media, Burjanadze said he is quitting as of March 31 and that the new Ombudsman, Levan Ioseliani had been duly informed of his decision. Ombudsman has not commented on these resignations nor named the replacements.
Data of the Day
The National Statistics Office has released national demographic data for 2022 showing Georgia in population decline, with the number of deaths (49,118) exceeding the number of births (42,319). According to the Statistics Office, despite the negative natural increase, deaths fell by 18% compared to the previous year.
The 2020 census in Russia showed a significant drop in ethnic Georgian and Georgia-born residents since 2010. According to statistics published by the Russian side, there are 113,687 persons identified as ethnically Georgian and residing in Russia, with 3,045 holding Georgian citizenship. The figure fell by 45 thousand since the last census in 2010. The number of Georgians residing in Russia has been a matter of acute political controversy in Tbilisi, with the leadership claiming “over a million Georgians” reside in Russia.