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Georgia and Ukraine to remain allies, Saakashvili says

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, January 20
Ukraine will remain Georgia’s friend and ally regardless who becomes its new leader, President Mikheil Saakashvili said on Monday following the incidents involving Georgian observers and journalists during the Presidential Elections in Ukraine. “Ukraine has been established as a democracy in recent years and in a democracy a government takes into consideration the opinion of its population,” he told journalists in Georgia’s winter resort of Bakuriani. “The Ukrainian people love Georgia, just like the Georgian people love Ukraine. All polls show that Georgians consider Ukrainians their main allies,” he added.

The Georgian observers had been sent to Ukraine at the request of the Ukraine side, the President said. Their presence was agreed with all political forces in the country, he noted, adding that Georgia will also send observers to Ukraine to monitor the second round of Presidential elections, but only if the Ukraine side wishes it to. “Our aim is not to interfere in their politics. We do not have the resources, will or instruments for doing this. Our task was to show maximum solidarity with, and assistance to, the people of Ukraine,” he said.

Saakashvili commented on the assaults of Georgian journalists and the detention of Georgian observers on election day. He assessed these incidents as “provocations.” “I do not think that any of the big political forces supported or ordered this. But I know there are serious forces outside Ukraine, which are interested in this,” Saakashvili said, adding that all the attempts of “this force” are predestined to fail.

Part of the Georgian opposition has criticised the Georgian Government over events in Ukraine. Labour Party leader Shalva Natelashvili apologised to the Ukrainians “in the name of the Georgian people" for the actions of the Georgian President and asked them not to “identify Saakashvili with the Georgian people.” “Sending those so-called observers, who are in fact representatives of different special agencies, to Kiev, Donetsk and other regions of Ukraine might spoil relations between Georgia and Ukraine,” Natelashvili said at a special press conference. He suggested that this spoiling of relations could include such actions as imposing a visa regime, terminating military cooperation, deporting thousands of Georgians from Ukraine and “the serious threat that Georgia’s occupied territories could be recognised by the new administration of Ukraine.”

The Movement for United Georgia, led by Georgia’s former Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili, accused the President of “rude interference” in the Ukrainian Presidential elections. One of the leaders of the Movement, Eka Beselia, assessed the incidents as “yet another irresponsible Saakashvili action, damaging country’s image.” “These actions can be called the export of Saakashvili’s rigging technologies through the main exporter, Givi Targamadze. We respect the right of free choice of the friendly Ukraine nation, no matter in whose favour the choice is made,” she said. The Movement for United Georgia demanded that the Government tell them which organisations the Georgian observers sent to Ukraine belonged to, who financed their visit, what the criteria were for selecting them and why Georgia sent the largest number of observers on January 17.

According to the preliminary results released by the Ukraine Central Election Commission, based on 99.9% of the ballots, the leader of the opposition Party of the Regions Viktor Yanukovich had obtained 35.35% of the vote and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko 25.04%. Incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko was in 5th place with 5.45% of the votes. The second round between the two leading candidates is planned for February 7.