TBILISI, DFWatch – An opposition politician in Georgia Tuesday described in more detail what he knows about an alleged paramilitary force recently established by President Saakashvili in the west of the country.
But he said documents about the illegal armed units will not be made public at this stage, because part of the country is occupied and this information could be used against Georgia.
Instead, the documents have been delivered to Georgia’s Security Council with an appeal to react.
Irakli Alasania, leader of the Free Democrats, one of the opposition leaders, political partner of billionaire businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili and former ambassador of Georgia to UN said this at a March 20 briefing.
The allegations were first made at a meeting with foreign diplomats on March 15. Alasania then said that government prepares for civil war and sets up illegal armed units in Western Georgia, near Russian occupied Abkhazia.
The government said it was untrue. It said these units are something called volunteer reserve, meaning that people can obtain military skills if they want.
Alasania says the units have nothing to do with the reserve and that the Free Democrats have full information about the location of these units, about illegal arms and financing, information they learned from people who care about their country and future.
Alasania remarked, this information have been gathered for months and has been rechecked. He said that today he can say with full responsibility that on the personal orders of Mikheil Saakashvili, armed units are being organized in the western part of Georgia.
He says there is reasonable suspicion that these formations are set up with the goal to persecute politicians who think differently, their supporters and activists, to threaten them and if possible for physical abuse.
“I have always been there, where my country was in difficult situation, even with weapon in my hands. But since I came into politics, I try to establish political culture together with my team, which will change government though only one way: with fair elections. Unfortunately the government doesn’t share such fundamental principles and on personal orders of Saakashvili, such armed formations are being set up in western Georgia for several months,” Alasania said.
He claims that in the Samegrelo region, the Akhalaia clan holds absolute powers: Roland Akhalaia, which is prosecutor of the region and his sons; one of them is head of defense ministry and second one control subdivisions at the Interior Ministry.
Alasania says the Akhalaia’s were instructed by Saakashvili to set up those formations; they gave orders to certain persons which are within law enforcement structures. These persons are: Roman Shamatava, Nugzar Pingani, Sergo Ubilava, Pridon Shengelia, Tornike Malazonia, Koba Todua, Mamuka Iosava, Zaza Janjgava, Zviad Gagua and Davit Darsmelidze.
“Unfortunately those units, which were set up, are subjects to law enforcement and not to the armed forces. Their only goal is no to give people possibility to make a free choice during elections and not to create a competitive environment,” Alasania said.
He remarks that there are about 500 persons in Samegerelo who are in those units, part of them was taking part in war for Georgia’s territorial integrity, and part has criminal past and part – just material interest.
Irakli Alasania appealed to members of the units that this is not a war where they should follow Saakashvili, because he will use them against his own people.
He also had a message for Saakashvili that the Free Democrats’ weapon is prevention and information to be public.
“Hysteria is not necessary: I want to say to him personally to take immediate measures and immediately demolish those band-formations. We only want to change them through elections.”
He also says there is reasonable suspicion that these kinds of groups are being set up in Tbilisi. They will inform people about it after rechecking the information.
Briefing attended diplomatic corps representatives too; however the Free Democrats haven’t transferred any information about armed units to them. Alasania says in case of interest, diplomats will be able to request this information from Georgia’s Security Council.
Today, the U.S. ambassador to Georgia John Bass responded to Alasania’s statement made March 15. He says any accusation which is made during an election campaign and is related to the possibility of use of violence, needs to be paid attention to.
John Bass says that there is no place for violence in a competitive electoral cycle and all parties should make steps to avoid processes which may cause the creation of a violent environment. The U.S. ambassador calls for all sides to be responsible with this issue, which means do not speak of accusations which aren’t based
Georgian Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia reponded to the Free Democrats leader’s claims by asking him to stop the delirium.
He told journalists that the reserve system was established several months ago and any person can take part in Georgia. No one receives salary there, he says.
Works are already conducted in several regions and reserve services are set up where 40 000 people have joined, the Minister explains.
“We keep on going with an optimistic plan and finally we will have a hundred thousand volunteers,” Akhalaia said.
Establishment of volunteer units started in the region which is nearest to the administrative border to Abkhazia.
“And it’s not normal to see nonsense behind this,” the Minister says, adding that these services started being formed several months ago because it was impossible in 2006. In 2008 the war pushed the issue forward.
“The war was an important push to conduct a full analysis and when time came, we started.”
Bacho Akhalaia says reservists are used for war or natural disasters and not in internal political confrontation.
DF Watch called Georgia’s National Security Council, the head of which is Giga Bokeria, asking whether they will react to this material and when their answer will become public, however they did not answer.