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Saakashvili’s Ukrainian trip

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, July 13
On July 9 Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili made a one day trip to Ukraine. Not much was said about this and no details were revealed apart from the fact that Saakashvili visited Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich to congratulate him on his 60th birthday. There were reports that Saakashvili was not expected by the Ukrainian authorities, who nevertheless welcomed him with due respect under the code of hospitality of the Ukrainian people. Some rumours stated that Georgia’s President actually visited Ukraine to establish contact with Russian President Medvedev, who was naturally expected to attend Yanukovich's birthday celebrations.

During the Presidential elections in Ukraine in January 2010 the Saakashvili administration openly took an anti-Yanukovich position, supporting his rival Yulia Tymoshenko. Everyone remembers the scandal of the 2,000 so-called observers sent from Georgia to monitor the elections who were turned out of the country as they were largely military or martial arts specialists with no qualifications to act as observers. In Georgia Yanukovich was seen as an anti- Georgian and pro-Russian person who would follow The Kremlin’s dictate and most probably recognise Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali. However the reality has proved to be different. Yanukovich has refused to recognise the separatists, Ukraine has continued to cooperate with Georgia in the military sphere to some extent and neither has there been any problem in bilateral trade relations. Ukraine has not abandoned GUAM either, so Saakashvili’s sudden visit to Ukraine could be understood as an attempt to take advantage of these unexpectedly good relations and retain Kyiv as a reliable and desirable partner for Tbilisi in different fields. The only issue on which Kyiv has retreated from its previous position is its renunciation of its NATO application, but this is any country’s personal choice.

The idea that Saakashvili was trying to approach Moscow’s leadership via Kyiv is based on the fact that it was common knowledge that the Medvedev-Putin tandem would be in Crimea to attend the Ukrainian President's birthday celebration. This is quite a controversial assertion as until recently the Russian leaders have repeatedly said that they do not want to meet and negotiate with Saakashvili personally. However just a couple of days ago Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov stated that Moscow is ready to normalise relations with Tbilisi, though blaming Saakashvili for deteriorating those relations. The Georgian President meanwhile declared that his country is ready to conduct a dialogue with The Kremlin without preconditions. Minister for Reintegration Temur Iakobashvili suggested to Moscow that it finally formulate its position on whether it is ready to have dialogue with Georgia’s leadership. Georgia is ready for dialogue and if Moscow wants to have it they have to decide and contact us, he said.

While the Russian leadership was in Crimea an informal CIS summit was held. Georgia withdrew from the CIS right after the August War, so Saakashvili being in Ukraine while there it is holding a summit raises questions. The opposition are accusing the authorities of getting ready to make serious concessions to Moscow, citing as an example the Georgian Parliament's decision to sell the main gas pipeline, which could easily be bought by the Russians as part of a quid pro quo. It is also speculated that Georgian Railways might be sold to Russia as well. The authorities deny these allegations, but everything will soon become clear. After all, you don't offer to talk to people without precondition unless you have something controversial to talk about.