Theodoros Benakis

Georgian Dream party systematically subjugates the country to Russia

Ana Aptsiauri @aptsiauri_ana
Georgian Police protect Lavrov's family at the Kvareli Lake Resort.

On August 8, 2008, the Russian army invaded the independent and sovereign Republic of Georgia, occupied 20% of Georgia’s internationally recognised territory, and caused the death of 180 Georgians. The Russian invasion was the first war of the twenty-first century in Europe.

Russia denied entrance of the EUMM monitors to occupied South Ossetia and Abkhazia, violating the Six Point Ceasefire Agreement. Since then, Georgians in Abkhazia and South Ossetia have experienced the Russian occupation and its proxies’ rule, with tens of thousands displaced and persecuted.

The information disclosed by Georgian media that members of the family of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, including his daughter Ekaterina Lavrova Vinokurova are in eastern Georgia to attend a wedding was a surprise. 

First, the memories of the Russian invasion are fresh, and the Georgian territories under Russian rule.

Second, while not sanctioned by the US and the EU yet, the US-born and educated but loyal to Kremlin Lavrova Vinokurova is sanctioned by Canada and Australia and considered a member of Vladimir Putin’s “inner circle”.

Third, the Georgian government officially favours relations with the EU. 

Did Lavrova’s holiday visit to Georgia escape the attention of the authorities? Did the apathy of the ruling party prove its servility to Moscow? Or is it a provocation that targets the people of Georgia, who dreams of a life of freedom, democracy, and prosperity, and the EU?

Is this behaviour a signal that Georgia belongs to the Russian sphere of influence?

The Georgian citizens reacted with massive protests.

However, according to the latest news, the President of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, made a statement announcing the departure of Lavrov’s family from Georgia. They also canceled the wedding for which they went to the resort.

A systematic subjugation of the country to the Kremlin 

The ruling Georgian Dream party systematically subjugates the country to Russia. After the 2019 citizen protests and the 2020 elections, the government of Irakli Garibashvili attacked Judicial independence and media freedom, illegally surveilled opposition personalities and journalists, led the society to unprecedented impoverishment, and did nothing to stop the rising violence against women and LGBT people.

In September 2022, the UN Human Rights Committee asked the government to investigate human rights violations, hold perpetrators accountable, fight violence against women, and protect people discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The government of Tbilisi persecuted its political rivals by manipulating the judiciary to inflict severe sentences on politicians and journalists.

The authorities condemned former President Mikheil Saakashvili to a six-year sentence, and imprisoned him. His health deteriorated dramatically, after he suffered from heavy metal poisoning while in detention. Nevertheless, the authorities denied Saakashvili any proper medical treatment.

The case of the politician and media personality Nika Gvaramia, director of Mtavari Arkhi TV, a TV channel critical to the government, is also an indicator of how the Georgian Dream party is establishing an authoritarian regime. In May 2022, a court sentenced Gvaramia to three and a half years imprisonment for abuse of power. Since then, Gvaramia remains in prison, in cell nr. 212.

The Georgian Dream embraces the international far-right

On May 4, 2023, the Party of European Socialists (PES) condemned the decision of the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Garibashvili, to participate in the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Hungary.

CPAC is hosted in Hungary by the authoritarian prime minister Viktor Orbán. CPAC is a kind of far-right and ultra-conservative “International” that brings together hard far-right and anti-EU parties from Austria (FPÖ), Italy (Lega), Spain (VOX), Portugal (Chega), Estonia (EKRE), among others. 

The Georgian Dream is currently a PES observer member. Its status will be on the agenda for the upcoming Presidency meeting in June.

However, Garibashvili heavily advertised his participation at the conservative forum and praised Orbán as the true defender of Europe.

The reaction of PES was prompt.

“The actions of Prime Minister Garibashvili are unacceptable and place him completely outside the values of our political family. The PES already decided to evaluate the status of the Georgian Dream within the party at the next meeting of the Presidency. This is obviously a necessary step following the intervention by Garibashvili today,” said PES Vice President Kati Piri

However, as Mtavari TV reported on May 19, Garibashvili doesn’t consider any alignment with the EU. 

“To obey the EU policy, we should be a member of the EU, it will take years”, said Garibashvili.

The EU should react

What the government of Tbilisi does is systematically obstructing the country’s European perspective. The attacks on democratic rights, the judiciary, and the media associated with the imprisonment of political opponents and independent journalists, deserve a determined reaction from the EU. We should consistently support those who fight for freedom and democracy in the country, taking all legal measures to press the authorities to respect human rights and release all prisoners whose sentences were politically motivated.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the courageous resistance of the country spread hopes that the future of the pro-Russian regimes in the area is tightly connected with Putin’s regime future.

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