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Russia a large part of UNM election campaign

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, September 11
The United National Movement (UNM) has chosen the Russian factor as a major topic of its pre-election campaign. The party repeatedly points to Moscow as a major threat for Georgia (which is not new). They also frequently paint the Georgian Dream coalition as a Russian project. This type of propaganda employed by the current government is targeted to the anti-Russian attitudes that exist within Georgian society and to those who view Moscow as a major threat to Georgia’s independence, sovereignty and integration. Anti-Russian sentiment was a major component during the sequence of rallies held on September 8 by the UNM in eleven Georgian towns.

During these campaign stops, President Saakashvili hinted at the provocation that had been planned (presumably by Russia) to undermine the situation in Georgia, but was successfully avoided by Georgia’s heroic actions in the Lopota district. Saakashvili stated that this provocation was masterminded by Russia and certain forces in Georgia supported it. President also spoke about how last spring, Russia financed its people in Georgia, aiming to create a mess in the country. Saakashvili mentioned Russian military forces training near Georgia’s northern border on September 17-23 for Kavkaz 2012. Analysts say that the Russian military training exercises were planned long before– in December 2011. On the other hand, Georgia's elections were to be held in October of this year, so Saakashvili himself could have assigned elections for late October a month after the Russian military training exercises. Instead Saakashvili scheduled the elections for October 1, so this was not the Russians who moved their training close to Georgia’s elections; it was Saakashvili who scheduled them to coincide with the Russian military trainings.

Clearly, there is no doubt that Russia is a major threat for Georgia. Georgia's new military doctrine has fixed this fact as reality some time ago. Various polls confirm the perception of the Georgian people that they understand that Russia is a major threat. This confirmed that Russia's image is not popular in Georgia at all, though the UNM never concentrates on its shortcomings in its relations with Russia, particularly before the August 2008 War. Instead it targets all attacks to the opposition coalition. Moreover, UNM leaders avoid commenting about the fact that two of Georgia’s key positions– the Minister of Economy Kakha Bendukidze and Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze, were Russian citizens.

Officials also avoid discussing the financial and economic issues that exist with the presence of different types of Russian capital in Georgia. The analysts mention that together with pointing out that Russia is a major threat, many Georgian citizens agree that Georgia should regulate relations with Russia. This is also the recommendation of Western allies. In different polls, about a quarter of the Georgian population thinks that this relationship should be regulated for the benefit of Georgia.