On March 12th, 2023, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Garibashvili, visited the “Imedis Kvira” program of the pro-governmental “Imedi TV,” where, during an extensive interview, he spoke about the law on “transparency of foreign influence” and the March 7-9 protests in Tbilisi.
Speaking about the demonstrations, Gharibashvili accused Ukraine of interfering in the internal political processes of Georgia and called on Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to “take care of his own country.” In addition, Gharibashvili connected the statements made by Ukrainian politicians to the attempt to open a “second front” in Georgia.
Notably, the messages voiced by Gharibashvili came under the lens of the Kremlin’s propaganda media shortly after. On March 12-13th, the propaganda media of the Kremlin started amplifying the following 3 messages voiced by the Prime Minister of Georgia:
- Zelenskyy wants to open a “second front” in Georgia;
- Zelenskyy interferes in the internal political processes of Georgia;
- Ukraine sent Saakashvili to Georgia to open a second front.
Russian propaganda platforms covered the above-mentioned messages with the following headlines:
- Zelenskyy wants to open a “second front” in Georgia: Russian MoD’s TV Zvezda: Премьер Грузии Гарибашвили заявил, что страна не станет открывать второй фронт для Украины (“Georgian Prime Minister Garibashvili said the country would not open a second front for Ukraine”); Other propaganda outlets: Russia Today – Власти Грузии пообещали не допустить «второго фронта» для Украины (“Georgian authorities promised not to allow a “second front” for Ukraine”); Взгляд (Vz.ru) – Премьер Грузии обвинил Украину в намерении втянуть республику в войну (“Georgian Prime Minister accused Ukraine of intending to drag the republic into the war”); Eurasia Daily and Tvesti.– “Зеленский мотивирован на войну в Грузии — Гарибашвили” (“Zelensky is motivated for war in Georgia – Garibashvili”);
- Zelenskyy interferes in the internal political processes of Georgia: Gazeta.ru – “Премьер Грузии Гарибашвили призвал Зеленского не вмешиваться в их политическую жизнь” (“Georgian Prime Minister Garibashvili urged Zelensky not to interfere in their political life”); Lenta.ru – Зеленского призвали не вмешиваться в политическую жизнь Грузии” (“Zelensky urged not to interfere in the political life of Georgia”); Московский Комсомолец – “Премьер Грузии Гарибашвили раскритиковал Зеленского за поддержку протестов в Тбилиси” (“Georgian Prime Minister Garibashvili criticized Zelensky for supporting protests in Tbilisi”); Vedomosti– “Премьер Грузии призвал Зеленского не вмешиваться в политическую жизнь республики” (Prime Minister of Georgia urged Zelensky not to interfere in the political life of the republic”).
Notably, the same headlines can be found on other propaganda media outlets as well (1, 2).
- Ukraine sent Saakashvili to Georgia to open a second front: In an interview with Imedi TV, Garibashvili said that they were aware of the potential start of hostilities in Ukraine in 2021; therefore, Saakashvili’s arrival in Georgia on October 1 was related to the involvement of Georgia into the war. Garibashvili’s claim that Saakashvili was sent by Kyiv to involve Georgia in military actions was published by Russia Today, Tass.ru, and Gazeta.ru with the following headlines:
- Russia Today: “Премьер Грузии: Киев вернул Саакашвили на родину для включения в военные действия” (Georgian Prime Minister: Kyiv returned Saakashvili to his homeland to be included in hostilities);
- Tass.ru: “Гарибашвили: Украина прислала Саакашвили в Грузию для включения страны в военные действия” (“Garibashvili: Ukraine sent Saakashvili to Georgia to involve the country in hostilities”);
- Gazeta.ru: “Гарибашвили: Украина прислала Саакашвили в Грузию, чтобы втянуть ее в конфликт.” (“Garibashvili: Ukraine sent Saakashvili to Georgia to drag the country into the conflict”).
Moscow’s Reaction to the Protests of March 7-9
It should be noted that the Kremlin was actively responding to the protests that were held against the draft law on March 7-9th in Tbilisi. Russian politicians and Kremlin propaganda media, on the one hand, connected the protest with the Maidan events of 2014 and warned Georgians about the developments in Ukraine; on the other hand, they accused the West of inciting the protests and accused it of attempting to overthrow the government.
On March 9th, in the “Big Game” program of Russia’s Channel One, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, said that the process is very similar to the Maidan, and criticism of the law is just an excuse to achieve the broad goal of changing the government.
Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation: “It is very similar to Kyiv’s “Maidan”. There is no doubt that the law on the registration of non-governmental organizations that receive foreign funding of only 20% of their budgets was just a pretext to start, in general, an attempt to change the government by force.”
Dmitry Peskov, the Spokesperson of the Kremlin also commented on the protests, claiming that it was orcherstrated from the outside.
Dmitry Peskov: „We see where the President of Georgia is addressing her people from. She is not talking to Georgians from Georgia, but from America, where someone’s ‘visible hand’ is trying to anti-Russian element [to the discourse].“
The Twitter page of the “Russian MFA in Crimea” also linked the protests of March 7-9 with the “Maidan events”. In the post published on March 10th, the Ministry calls on the Georgian population to think about the consequences of such events for Ukraine.
The protest held on March 7-9th was the result of the draft law initiated by “People’s Power” and then adopted by the Parliament in the first reading. On March 9th, the ruling “Georgian Dream” party issued a statement that it would withdraw the draft law, and at the plenary session held on March 10th, the Parliament of Georgia dropped the draft law on “transparency of foreign influence” in the second reading.