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Parliament Speaker Says UNM ‘Helped’ Russia’s Goals in Georgia

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, September 27
Georgian Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze repeated the accusations of an independent presidential candidate Salome Zourabichvili, that the United National Movement under the former president Mikheil Saakashvili “helped” Russia occupy 20 percent of historic Georgian lands.

Kobakhidze also told TV Pirveli on Tuesday said the United National Movement has “no moral right” to criticize Zourabichvili for “telling the truth” that Saakashvili was provoked by Russians in 2008 to get involved in the military conflict, which led to deadly consequences for Georgia.

“UNM has no right to criticize Salome Zourabichvili, the person who played a key role for the withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgia when she served as Foreign Minister in 2005,” Kobakhidze said, responding to the opposition accusations to Zourabichvili on her “pro-Russian” statements.

“The withdrawn Russian troops were brought back to Georgia in 2008 due to the actions of Saakashvili,” Kobakhidze added.

The opposition says that Zourabichvili’s and the ruling party’s statements regarding the Russia-Georgia 2008 are damaging the state interests.

Zourabichvili, who was invited to Georgia and appointed as foreign minister by Saakashvili in 2004, is supported as president by the Georgian Dream ruling party for October 28 presidential elections.

As foreign minister of Georgia Zourabichvili was a negotiator of the agreement for the withdrawal of Russian military bases of the territory of Georgia, which was signed with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on May 19, 2005.

The document signed in Sochi referred to the timeframe and modalities of functioning and withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia and a deal on the transit of Russian military cargoes and personnel through Georgia’s territory.

The Akhalkalaki base was emptied of most of its heavy equipment during 2006 and was closed in 2007, as well as Batumi base with more than 3,000 Russian military personnel.

Russian military bases were created in Georgia in 1995, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and internal conflicts in the country.

Then Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze accepted being of Russian troops in Georgia for 25 years. The reason for such a long stay approved by Shevardnadze remains unknown.

Four bases were created: Akhalkalaki, Batumi, Vaziani and Gudauta.

In 1999 Georgia raised the issue at OSCE summit about the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia. Negotiations were launched with Russians by the Shevardnadze government regarding the initial withdrawal of Vaziani and Gudauta bases, which was achieved in 2001.

In 2005, now the Saakashvili government kicked off the process of withdrawal of the Russian troops from the remaining two bases.

The United National Movement says that Zourabichvili is lying when she says that she withdrew Russian troops from Georgia, as the process was launched under Shevardnadze leadership.