Clickbait websites with Russian IP addresses, ultranationalists, pro-Kremlin and government groups against cartographers

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Clickbait websites with Russian IP addresses, ultranationalists, pro-Kremlin and government groups against cartographers


On 28 January, speaking in a talk show “Reaction” on TV Pirveli, Iveri Melashvili discussed, among other things, the process of defining a disputed section of the border. Various media outlets and political actors took only a fragment of the talk show and shared it extensively. The mentioned fragment contained few sentences, including the words “how does it belong to you when it does not belong to you” which could create an impression that Melashvili was denying the ownership of Davit Gareji.

In the following days of the program, those words were used out of context in a manipulative way by ultranationalist and pro-government groups; it soon took on a form of a campaign against Iveri Melashvili, pursuing the aim to discredit the cartographers and portray them as traitors of the homeland.

The campaign against cartographers was joined by:

  1. Pro-government media outlets and Facebook accounts
  2. Public servants
  3. Ultranationalist actors
  4. Clergy
  5. Clickbait websites with IP addresses in Russia (Moscow, Petersburg)
  6. Pro-Kremlin actors

The fragment of the video was released without context. Talking about the disputed territories, Melashvili, first, focused on the importance of defending the country’s interests and the significance of negotiations with the neighboring state; then, he expressed concern that the fuss that had been kicked up by civilians and clergy, damaged the possibility of negotiation and harmed the country’s interests. He also explained the essence of negotiations and emphasized that he was talking about a legal, not historical status.

The malicious campaign against Melashvili created a fertile ground for pro-Kremlin and ultranationalist groups to divert the attention, by reopening historical wounds, from current Russian occupation towards historical occupation.

  • What did Iveri Melashvili say on TV Pirveli?

During the talk show “Reaction” on TV Pirveli, Iveri Melashvili made a comment on the ongoing investigation: “In all this case, in all this dirt, the greatest damage is that the country’s interests are being harmed.” Asked by the presenter whether, in his opinion, this process was politically motivated, the cartographer replied affirmatively, adding that had it not been so, the authorities would not have deviated from the path of negotiations and even in case of need to investigate, would not have made it public because the radicalization and populist steps harmed and impeded the negotiations.

Iveri Melashvili: “Unfortunately, in all this case, in all this dirt, the greatest damage is that the country’s interests are being harmed vis-à-vis another country, i.e., your partner country….”

Inga Grigolia: “This is something that struck me from what you’ve said today and I even included it in my introduction to the program – in the regime of hostility with our partner country… A disputed section of the border does not belong to Georgia and it requires negotiations to obtain it. Melashvili does not speak about a historical ownership of the monastery and historical justice, he speaks about the current legal status.”

  • What did Iveri Melashvili said and how? 

Iveri Melashvili: “We are damaging the relationship.”

Inga Grigolia: “In your opinion, is it done on purpose?”

Iveri Melashvili: It is done on purpose because had it not been so, one could have conducted it in a calm manner; if one wants to inquire, to gain an insight in the working situation, one may gain it at a table – be it in the Foreign Affairs Ministry or in the Interior Ministry or any other agency. Even if it is to be necessarily investigated, one does not need to cause agitation. The agitation was caused by claiming that we have something somewhere, it belongs to us. You do not say, or propose to discuss, but insist that it belongs to you. This undermines [negotiations]… What is a negotiation? Negotiation is when you start from a starting point, some stage, then move to the next stage and achieve some agreement, and proceed with the process gradually, step by step, but when you cross it out and maintain stubbornly that it belongs to you… how does it belong to you when it does not belong to you? When there is no ground of that, do you say that it belongs to you just because a monk or a civilian or others went there to show off themselves? This is not correct; it does not belong to you and [the other country] will never cede it to you. A possibility of negotiation that we have had so far, is damaged, crossed out, and that generates in your partner a hostile attitude towards you.

When speaking, Melashvili did not touch upon a status of historical ownership of the monastery, but talked about the issue of legalization of a stretch of the territory that had not been determined. He stressed that if discussions and negotiations between the parties were impeded and ceased, that would not resolve the problem.

The Bertubani monastery, one of the monasteries falling within the Davit Gareji monastery complex, is on the territory of Azerbaijan while the location of other monasteries – Chichkhituri and Udabno are disputable. In a statement on this issue, the Georgian National Academy of Sciences has also underlined the importance of interstate negotiations. The statement reads:

Georgian National Academy of Sciences, 19 October: “The border between Georgia and Azerbaijan runs along the Chichkhituri hill and the tower there; this creates numerous inconveniences. Historical justice requires that the abovementioned territory together with the Davit Gareji complex remain in the composition of Georgia. This may be resolved through interstate negotiations.
In our view, four main factors must be taken into consideration: 1) historical, 2) religious, 3) legal, and 4) political. 

The administrative border between Georgia and Azerbaijan, which was delimitated along the parameter of Gareji after the Bolshevik Soviet Russia occupied and annexed Georgia, must not be regarded as a state border. The government must maintain an extremely principled position on this issue (it concerns approximately 500 ha of disputed section).”

The Georgia-Azerbaijani administrative border, mentioned in the statement of the Science Academy, was established by the Bolshevik Soviet Russia after a resolution “Winter Pastures of Gareji and Eldar, Samukh” adopted the Central Executive Committee of the Federation of Transcaucasian SSR adopted on 18 February 1929. It was demarcated along the Chichkhituri hill and the tower standing separately there; as a result, Udabno monastery and Tsamebuli complex occurred within the territory of Azerbaijan.

In September 2020, Davit Khidasheli, a Georgian businessman with close ties to Russia, presented “new” 1:200,000-scale maps. Specialists were aware of these maps well before that, but they were not used in the process of border demarcation. According to Melashvili, these maps have technical shortcomings. Furthermore, there is an agreement signed between Azerbaijan and Georgia in 1996.

On 13 June 1996, at a meeting of intergovernmental commission on the border delimitation and demarcation, Azerbaijan and Georgia signed a memorandum of understanding. It was agreed that in negotiations the commissions of both countries would stick to the 1938 border agreement, not the 1929 agreement (or maps created within the scope of it). The maps presented by Davit Khidasheli were printed in 1937 and consequently, were not part of the 1938 agreement. The 1996 memorandum of understanding also said that the parties would use larger-scale (1:500,000) maps; it did not mention 1:200,000-scale maps (the ones that Melashvili and Ilychova were accused of hiding, and were obtained by Khidasheli).

Azerbaijan and Georgia have not agreed on 100% of the state border yet and negotiations to demarcate the border so that to the entire historical Georgian monument falls within the territory of Georgia have been underway. On the talk show, Iveri Melashvili was speaking about the importance of these very negotiations. Later, he clarified that the historical and legal ownerships were two different things, that legal and political negotiation with the neighboring country was the only way to recover each piece of an important Georgian religious monument and populism would not bring us to that aim.

Iveri Melashvili, 29 January: Davit Gareja, of course, belongs to us, is part of our culture and religion. No one can dispute that. The problem here is that a certain border was established during the Soviet Union. This border is in effect today. I don’t know whether anyone necessarily wanted to hear populist statements from me, me starting claiming pathetically that everything on that side, till the Foilo Bridge, belonged to us; but would that be the truth? No, it would not. True, it belonged to us once. The border ran along the Foilo Bridge, but this is not the case today. We look at it from a legal perspective. We must say, of course, that it belongs to us from a cultural, religious, ethnographic standpoint, but if you want to achieve the aim through negotiations, you must act in a correct way and refrain from excessive and populist statements.

  • Which groups are engaged in the campaign against Melashvili-Ilychova?

Ultranationalist and pro-government groups were the first to share Iveri Melashvili’s statement without the context; then other accusations against Melashvili and Ilychova followed, including the allegation that they did not have a relevant academic background. Ilychova has been discriminated on the ground of ethnicity while Melashvili has been discredited by rumors about his personal relations.

Progovernment media outlets, FB pages and experts

Ultranationalist actors

Clickbait websites with IP addresses in Russia

Pro-Russian actors



Zviad Tomaradze

Dimitri Lortkipanidze

Giorgi Jamdeliani  – Archbishop of Marneuli and Hujabi

Maestro TV

ეროვნულ რელიგიური ინსტიტუტი,


Archbishop Iakob Archbishop of Bodbe


Archpriest Andria Jaghmaidze– Head of the Public Relations Department of the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC)

Prime Time

კონსერვატიული პლატფორმა

Archimandrite Kirion

საზოგადოებრივი მაუწყებელი

Sandro Bregadze


თურქეთი ოკუპანტია

Ghia Abashidze, government expert

Nikoloz Mzhavanadze

Soso Manjavidze, government expert

დავით ლორთქიფანიძე

ლიდერი 41

გეგა ხვედელიძე

ტერენტი გლდანელი




Political Sarcasm



ლევან ჩაჩუა

საქართველოს ოკუპირებული ტერიტორიები

Public servants. Public servants also joined the campaign against Melashvili and Ilychova. This can be seen from 100 screens shared by Helen Khoshtari to prove their active engagement; public servants in various regions of Georgia shared identical messages and comments in a coordinated manner, in which Melashvili was accused of treason and alienation of Davit Gareji.

In his post, a Georgian Dream activist, Shako Kutchashvili, called on other supporters of the Georgian Dream to share concrete “simple” messages, including “Iveri Melashvili is an enemy,” “Iveri Melashvili is not a professional cartographer,” etc.

photo: Helen Khoshtaria

Rumors about Melashvili’s private life were shared by clickbait websites with IP addresses in Russia.

Clickbait websites also engaged in the malicious campaign:,,,, shared a post of a writer for Alia, Ira Gogosashvili, containing rumors about the private life of Iveri Melashvili.



From these five clickbait websites, IP addresses of four (,, are in Russia while that of the fifth ( is in France..

Reopening historical wounds – from the image of personal enemy towards the neighboring state

The malicious campaign launched by pro-government and other actors, using out-of-context quote of Iveri Melashvili, created a fertile ground for ultranationalist and pro-Kremlin actors to portray not only the cartographers as enemies, but also the neighboring state of Azerbaijan as an occupier, by reopening historical wounds. The case of cartographers was also part of pre-election campaign, diverting the attention from current Russian occupation towards historical occupation and promoting the narrative that not only Russia is an occupier but other neighbors too.

The leader of Iberian-Caucasian Movement, Besarion Mikava, said that “Ilham Aliyev’s Azerbaijan is the occupier of Georgian territory!” Mikava’s post was published by pro-Kremlin media and News-front. Mikava spoke about the annexation of Hereti, the Turkish occupation and threats of Turkish expansion.

Besarion Mikava, Iberian-Caucasian Movement, 29 January: “In the past, Azerbaijan occupied and annexed the ancient territory of Georgia, Hereti. Ilham Aliyev, in agreement with the Turkish government, tries to annex part of Georgia, namely, Marneuli, Rustavi and Tbilisi, while Erdogan wants to misappropriate the territory from Batumi to Guria ([Turkey] already misappropriated 30% of Georgian territory with the help of Lenin who hated Georgians).”

Ultranationalist groups used hashtag #Azerbaijanisoccupier; in such posts, they actively exploited topic of Hereti for reopening historical wounds.


Ultranationalist media outlet, Alt-Info, also used the message about Azerbaijani occupation, promoting the idea that Georgia must have territorial claims against other neighbors too:

Alt-Info, Alt-Interview, 29 January
Tatia Gabrichidze, journalist:
It turns out that we must defend the Georgian land only from Russian occupier, which is our enemy, but if any other neighbor – Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, which we have cordial relations with, has claims to Georgian land, we must cede it to them, should not dispute with them and give whatever they demand, much like Iveri Melashvili did, for example, [when he] drew a line with Azerbaijan and gave to it, and similarly, in case of Turkey, Iveri Melashvili gave 6 ha of land to Turkey, the land which was disputed, but he handed it over. I cannot provide details about documents which served as a basis, because this information has not be publicized yet, but it is available on the Palitranews.”

The head of Primakov Russian-Georgian Public Center, Dimitri Lortkipanidze, published a post and a screen of the 1996 memorandum of understanding of Georgia-Azerbaijani intergovernmental border commission, and wrote that the document proved the guilt of Ilychova and Melashvili. This post was published by a pro-government Imedi TV and pro-Kremlin News Front, though instead of referring to Lortkipanidze as the head of Primakov Russian-Georgian Public Center, they referred to him as a former member of parliament.


Openly xenophobic and homophobic newspaper, Asaval-Dasavali, even encouraged physical violence. On the front page of its weekly edition, the newspaper published a photo of Iveri Melashvili disguised as Sergo Orjonikidze and a line from Lasha Nadareishvili’s poem which read: “Georgian will trample him!”


Focus on ethnicity and gender

“Once he was released on bail and opened his mouth, Melashvili, this villain with the wickedest gaze and altered surname, immediately exposed himself and tarnished the entire UNM-opposition cluster so heavily that they will never be able to wash that dirt off!– Giorgi Gigauri, journalist of Asaval-Dasavali

“Explain to me, why should someone Ilychova delimit the border of my country?! Tell me, if am I wrong! Tell me, if am I xenophobe and fascist!” – Gela Zedelashvili

“It now does not matter any longer whether that traitor Ivera and Armenian Natalya Badalian-Ilychova, who gave away their former bosses, are inside or outside [the prison]!!!” – Ira Gogosashvili

It is a strange commission, in general, the lady who did not learn the state language is the second member in it. She only spoke with us in Russian; is that acceptable? Who are entrusted with such task? The one who declares that this land belongs to someone else. Who you are, who asks you anything? Go and keep quiet wherever you are.”– Archbishop Iakob

Melashvili and Ilychova lack professionalism

“Iveri Melashvili and Natalya Badalian-Ilychova are not scientists! They do not have a scientific degree!!! (if they do, let them preset it); they are not cartographers either!!!” – Ira Gogosashvili

“These traitors of the country have never been cartographers!!!” – Beka Vardosanidze

Manipulating with religious issues and reopening historical wounds

“A Georgian who says about the Gareji Monastery, soaked with blood of six thousand martyrs, or even the tiniest strip of his land that it does not belong to him, such a person cannot be called a son of this country, but is alien and represents a classical traitor.” – Marneuli Hujabi,

“Davit Gareji – our Jerusalem” –

“And should I cede this land?:(((((I am asking you, scoundrel Melashvili, is this not our land? Historians write that on that night, Udabno [monastery] was painted with blood. Large stone plates to the entrance of the monastery still remain red.

In Davit Gareji, at the upper border, there is a small Easter church where, according to the legend, infidels, as they were called by Georgians, decapitated 6000 monks because of their religion on the night of the Easter.” – ნNino Jgarkava

Myth Detector

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