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Georgian Archbishop Says US Deters Russia from Occupying More Territory

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, November 29
(WASHINGTON D.C.) -- One of the leading figures in the Georgian Orthodox Church publicly stated during a recent trip to Washington that the United States is his country’s main deterrent against Russia’s wider plans to occupy the whole of Georgia.

“I believe most Georgians share the view that the US plays a major role in supporting our territorial integrity and deterring Russia from expanding its occupation of Georgian land,” said Archbishop Jacob said while leading a delegation in Washington.

The high-ranking clergyman is one of several key Georgian church figures who are holding meetings with US officials, civil society representatives and academics.

Jacob serves as one of three archbishops who are in close council with Georgian Patriarch Ilia II.

While speaking to reporters, he rejected claims that the Georgian Orthodox Church is used as an influential political and propaganda tool by Russia to spread the Kremlin’s influence over the former Soviet republic.

“There are some who associate our allegiance with a certain country (Russia). The Georgian church will, however, act based on the national interests to achieve the country’s territorial integrity,” the spiritual stated.

“We are here in the United States, because this country is the most reliable strategic partner for Georgia,” Jacob stated.

The church officials are currently on a tour of Western capitals to better familiarize themselves with leading NGO, international organizations and political figures.

Georgia’s civil society has frequently referenced the Orthodox Church’s enormous influence over society, but has criticized its reactionary and xenophobic statements that are often aimed at European institutions and morals. Outside observers and human rights groups have accused the church of echoing statements propagated by the Moscow Patriarchate, which often attacks activist groups who publicly support minority and women’s rights initiatives.

Members of Georgia’s liberal opposition believe the church needs to better educate itself about Western values as the country is moved closer to full Euro-Atlantic integration.

Within the trip the Georgian church delegation visited the White House, the Library of Congress and met with US lawmakers.