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The Daily Beat: 3 April

President Salome Zurabishvili arrived in Vilnius with an official visit, holding meetings with her Lithuanian counterpart Gitanas Nausėda and chairman of the Seimas, Victoria Chmilite-Nielsen. After the meeting at Presidential Palace, President Nausėda reiterated Lithuania’s support for Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration, emphasizing the importance of transformation and reforms. In his public statement, Lithuania’s president also mentioned politically motivated cases and pressure on the media and NGOs, describing them as harmful to democracy.  “No one should give Russia false hopes that isolated Georgia will become its new and easy target,” President Zurabishvili said while speaking of the forthcoming Vilnius NATO summit in July. According to press statements, the ongoing war in Ukraine, hybrid threats, disinformation, Georgia’s EU and NATO integration, and bilateral cooperation topped Zurabishvili’s meetings’ agenda in friendly Lithuania.

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On late Saturday evening, opposition politicians, civic activists, and ordinary citizens gathered at the prime minister’s office to support 21-year-old Lazare Grigoriadis, arrested following the March protests. A peaceful group of protestors called for an end to political prosecution, intimidation, and demonization of youth, demanding the release of Grigoriadis. The footage of violence committed with impunity by various radical groups in the past was also screened at the rally apparently to illustrate the government’s double standards. MEP Viola von Cramon, who happened to be somewhere in the city center, joined the protesters, saying she came to express solidarity with the Georgian people, who strongly support the pro-Western course.

MEP von Cramon’s presence at a protest rally supporting the arrested Grigoriadis sparked an outcry from the ruling Georgian Dream party. “People like Viola have no desire for the development and progress of Georgia. These people are driven by their own interests,”  Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze said. “von Cramon running here at rallies… [if she wants] she can organize such a thing in her country, throw a Molotov cocktail and express her support…This is a rule of law state, with an ancient civilization, culture, traditions, academic society, and she was mistaken to speak in that tone; I hope she will understand this and will apologize,” another ruling party lawmaker, Irakli Zarkua noted.  

Meanwhile, defense lawyer Lika Bitadze told the journalists about the possible violation of Lazare Grigoriadis’ rights while in custody, citing psychological pressure during interrogation and shaving his hair against the defendant’s will. According to Bitadze, he was denied legal representation. Moreover, an unidentified senior official allegedly threatened that his friend would be arrested if Georgiadis didn’t testify. On March 31, the court sentenced Grigoriadis to preventive detention for allegedly throwing stones and a petrol bomb at the police, as well as for setting fire to a police vehicle during the protests in Tbilisi against the Russian-styled “foreign agents” law.

Davit Kezerashvili, former defense minister and founder of opposition Formula TV, gave a wide-ranging interview to his TV channel, speaking about his business interests, the ruling party accusations against him, and the extent of his involvement in Georgian politics. In an interview, Kezerashvili admitted that he is one of few people supporting Georgia’s pro-Western political forces. He also denied rumors of planning to mount the political party but said he won’t remain politically inactive. “Unfortunately, I had to give up my shares in 2012. It was a demand from the new government for me to leave Georgia,” said Kezerashvili, adding that he no longer owns any business in Georgia, naming Formula TV as his only asset in the country.

The foreign ministry confirmed the death of another Georgian fighter, Mikheil Mazanashvili, in Ukraine, near Bakhmut, bringing the unofficial total death toll to 29 since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Ministry noted that the Georgian Embassy in Ukraine had been informed and is taking measures to repatriate the body to Georgia.


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