Former Insider Lashes Out at Authorities
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 29 Sep.'08 / 21:25

Erosi Kitsmarishvili, the former owner of Rustavi 2 TV and one-time President Saakashvili administration insider, has called for the establishment of a political alternative to the current “discredited authorities.” 

Kitsmarishvili, who was never a career diplomat, served as Georgian ambassador to Moscow until being dismissed by the Foreign Ministry in mid-September. He was considered a close ally of the president's, serving as his key strategist ahead of the January 5 snap presidential election.

Kitsmarishvili used a newspaper interview published on September 29 in the largest-selling Georgian weekly Kviris Palitra, to vent criticism of his former allies for what he called their failure to avert war with Russia and their hobbling of democracy and media freedom. He said that democracy had been stronger during the last few years of Eduard Shevardnadze’s presidency than it was now.

“People like me should no longer be part of this government; they should be opponents of the authorities with whom relations have broken down,” Kitsmarishvili said.

“There are many interesting people both within and outside the government,” he continued, but did not specify names. “We should create an alternative to these authorities. That is my position, because today we have discredited authorities.”

He said that this alternative was needed in order to restore political balance in the country and to create a checks-and-balances system.

“I will be one of them who will implement this; the current reality [that has emerged after the August war with Russia] will help this process, as well as the political forces – which are in the process of being established, with some of them already established,” he said.

Kitsmarishvili said that the war could have been averted if President Saakashvili had listened to senior western diplomats and if he had not fallen for the Russian bait.

“I, as the last Georgian ambassador to Russia, want to stress that the Georgian authorities did not take into account the position of top diplomats regarding conflict resolution issues,” Kitsmarishvili said. “Hence, I, who stood aside from the authorities, despite numerous disagreements want to announce that there is no place for me to stay within the Saakashvili government… and I distance myself from him [President Saakashvili].”

He also said that he planned “public activities,” but added he was not ready at this point to give details.

On the August war, Kitsmarishvili recalled Georgia’s UN ambassador Irakli Alasania’s efforts to push for a peace plan with Abkhazia.

“If implemented, we could have averted the bloody scenario of events,” Kitsmarishvili said.

He said ex-Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze and Alasania and “Georgian diplomats” in general “have not been listened to” by senior Georgian decision-makers.

He said, if Burjanadze had remained parliamentary chairperson, there would have been “some chance” of averting the war.

Kitsmarishvili is co-founder of Rustavi 2 TV. He gained significant political weight – although he never was an acting politician - after the 2003 Rose Revolution as his television station had sided with the then opposition leaders and played a key role in developments in November 2003. He said the day after ex-President Shevardnadze stepped down on November 23, Saakashvili, Burjanadze, Zurab Zhvania and he met and distributed powers and responsibilities in post-revolutionary Georgia. Kitsmarishvili has claimed that his role – as a participant of the Rose Revolution “project,” as he called it - was to oversee observance of the verbal agreement reached between the leaders.

Kitsmarishvili had to give up control of the television station, supposedly, after disagreements with Zhvania, the late prime minister.

In the newspaper interview, Kitsmarishvili acknowledged having disagreements with Zhvania and even said: “we parted company as enemies.” He also said that he did not believe Zhvania’s death in February 2005 was an accident; “It was murder,” he said. He gave no further details.

Kitsmarishvili’s criticism of Saakashvili’s administration comes two weeks after the same newspaper published an interview with ex-Prime Minister Zurab Nogaidlei, who also, using the August war, lashed out at his former allies. Burjanadze has stopped short of directly blaming the authorities for the August war, but said she had “tough questions” which needed answers from the government.

Giga Bokeria, a deputy foreign minister, and an influential figure within the administration, has dismissed the government's critics, suggesting they were motivated by resentment following the loss of official posts.

“It is strange that such criticism usually coincides with the loss of bureaucratic posts,” he said in an interview with Kviris Palitra, also published on September 29. He declined to comment on why Kitsmarishvili had been dismissed.

Kitsmarishvili, meanwhile, has claimed he was offered an unspecified official post before his dismissal as ambassador. He said he declined the offer.

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