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US Set to Reveal Russian Agents Within Georgian Government

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Friday, May 31, 2024
Before the veto was overridden, Radio Liberty reported that the US would disclose information it holds regarding Russian agents within the Georgian government, accompanied by sanctions, should the Georgian Dream succeed in overcoming the president's veto and ultimately enact the Russian law.

"The US possesses information that can destroy the reputation of the Georgian political elite" - a member of the team working on the MEGOBARI Act told the journalist of the Washington bureau of Radio Liberty on the condition of anonymity.

As per the source, the revelation of Russian agents within the Georgian political elite, alongside instances of Chinese influence, is poised to undermine the narrative of the Georgian Dream, which contends that the "foreign agents bill" safeguards Georgia's sovereignty. Should this transpire, it can be inferred that the exposure of Russian agents ahead of the 2024 parliamentary elections could wield considerable influence over the country's internal political dynamics.

The scandalous revelations from Radio Liberty prompted swift reactions from both the government and the opposition in Georgia. The opposition eagerly awaits the publication of this information. Nika Gvaramia, co-chairman of the "Ahali" party, asserts that one of the reasons Georgian Dream is afraid to give up power is the fear of exposure. The incoming government, born out of the elections, will be compelled to reveal Russian agents within Georgian politics. According to him, Bidzina Ivanishvili's speech at the rally on April 29 was "the statement of a Russian agent," requiring very little interpretation.

Government officials appear to downplay the concern. They assert that they are not afraid of any information to be disclosed. "They can make public whatever information they want," responded Georgian Dream MP Anri Okhanashvili to the news.

Tbilisi Mayor Kakhi Kaladze dismisses discussions about the presence of Russian agents in the Georgian government as "nonsense", stating he has no intention to comment on such matters. Conversely, representatives of the Georgian Dream faction accuse the Americans of resorting to blackmail, deeming it unacceptable to engage with Georgia using such tactics.

According to Irakli Kadagishvili, a Georgian Dream MP, genuine partnership is absent when discussions revolve around the disclosure of information. He questions why, if such information exists, it hasn't been revealed until now.

Despite the assertions of Georgian Dream representatives, they have legitimate reasons for concern. On September 14, 2023, the US imposed sanctions on over 150 companies and individuals, including Otar Fartskhaladze, the former Prosecutor General of Georgia and an individual closely associated with Bidzina Ivanishvili's entourage.

At that time, representatives of Georgian Dream declared that Partskhaladze had been absent from government circles for 9-10 years, emphasising his status as a private individual unaffiliated with the government. Meanwhile, the opposition called for an immediate investigation and stressed that Fartskhaladze might not be acting alone, urging the identification of other potential Russian agents.

At the time, Zurab Japaridze, the leader of Girchi - More Freedom, remarked "We have Russians in power; this is not only evident from Fartskhaladze's exposure, but also from their entire modus operandi. As long as they remain in power, their every move seems dictated by a desire not to provoke Russia. In essence, they serve Russian interests, and this is a regrettable reality."

Georgian Dream did not pursue any investigation into Partskhaladze's case. Instead, they shielded him from sanctions. Georgian media has frequently drawn direct connections to the activities of the Russian agency within the country. Moreover, they highlight that Georgian Dream has not disclosed any Russian agents since assuming power.

The impact of the Russian agency's actions is evident. For instance, in 2022, Georgians fighting in Ukraine publicly disclosed that their personal information, including copies of military credentials and other documents, had been obtained by Russia. This isn't the initial instance of Russia obtaining personal information from Georgian fighters and soldiers, with accusations pointing towards representatives from the Georgian side for the handover of such documents.

In 2021, the former Chief of the General Staff, Gigi Kalandadze, stated that shortly after the Georgian Dream came to power in 2012, the network of the agency in Russia and the occupied territories was collectively apprehended by Russian intelligence, with the list provided to Russia by Georgian authorities.

When viewed within a broader context, Georgia's post-Soviet history is replete with discussions about Russian agents and reciprocal allegations concerning Russian agency. Virtually every politician in Georgia has faced accusations of being a Russian agent. During his tenure, Mikheil Saakashvili often accused his political adversaries of having ties to Russia. However, once the crisis subsided, no investigations were initiated. Conversely, Saakashvili's opponents levelled accusations against him, alleging that he acted in favour of Russia. Simultaneously, none of the authorities in the country implemented the Lustration Law. While the topic was actively debated during Saakashvili's rule, it failed to yield any tangible results.

The exposure of Russian agents, coupled with sanctions, now seems inevitable with the impending enactment of Georgian Dream's "Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence". While Georgian Dream may attempt to discredit potential whistleblowing materials, it's unlikely to prevent the active discussion of the Russian agency in the media.