Levan Khabeishvili became the new chairman of the United National Movement

Levan Khabeishvili became the new chairman of the biggest opposition party, the United National Movement. He received 52.58% of the votes (21,656 votes). This was announced by the chairman of the Political Council of the United National Movement, Koba Nakopia, at a briefing held at the party’s office.

According to Koba Nakopia, the party congress should be held following the elections and then the new chairman will begin his activities.

Elected chairman of the United National Movement, Levan Khabeishvili, said at a briefing held at the party’s office: “This victory belongs to Mikheil Saakashvili, who is now fighting for his life, and his fight is also connected with the freedom of our country.

Khabeishvili noted that the UNM will be open to new people, old and new colleagues. According to him, “The United National Movement is the only party in Georgia that proves its commitment to democratic, western values, this election is a clear and direct manifestation of this.”

The former chairman of the party Nika Melia congratulated Levan Khabeishvili on his victory.

“I congratulate Levan Khabeishvili, I wish him to lead the party with dignity and truth, and I hope that he will succeed in this. I think no one should doubt that I will remain in this fight and, of course, I will be in the vanguard of this fight and will remain in the party, until Mikheil Saakashvili is a personal prisoner of the Russian regime.” Melia noted.

Another candidate for the chairmanship of the party, Nona Mamulashvili, said that she wishes success to Khabeishvili, however, “money and informal influences won over politics.”

During the United National Movement’s pre-election campaign, Nika Melia stated that his competitor was not Khabeishvili, but Vano Merabishvili and Kezerashvili.

Davit Kezerashvili was the Minister of Defense of Georgia from 2006-2008. Since September 5, 2019, he owns the control package of the TV “Formula”. Vano Merabishvili was the Prime Minister of Georgia in 2012 and the Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia in 2004-2012. He is one of the founders and former secretary-general of the “National Movement”.

GD Chair Irakli Kobakhidze talks about “Second Front” and Lavrov’s Remarks

On 18 January, Irakli Kobakhidze, the Georgian Dream party chairperson, spoke about the difficulties Georgia is currently facing; attempts of establishing a “second front;” “radical opposition;” Georgia’s EU candidacy bid; and the imprisoned third president Mikheil Saakashvili with Imedi TV.  Additionally, Kobakhidze responded to Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Federation’s foreign minister who has recently complimented the Georgian government.

Irakli Kobakhidze named the ongoing war in Ukraine as one of the main challenges for the country this year and added that “we will have to walk very carefully” in 2023 as well. According to him, thanks to the caution of the Georgian society and a healthy assessment of the situation, it was possible to maintain peace in the country, but “risks still remain”.

In this context, the Georgian Dream chairperson once more discussed the “attempts” of opening a “second front” in Georgia by “serious forces,” or what he called the “global war party.” As yet another example of the aforementioned attempts, Kobakhidze referenced a CNN host Christiane Amanpour who asked EU Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen about Georgia’s possible breach of sanctions against Russia.

“This is CNN and not TV Pirveli or Mtavari TV. When a falsehood of this magnitude is broadcast on CNN, it suggests that a significant force is interested in artificially creating problems for  Georgia … eventual consequence should be [is aimed to be] the opening of a second front,” Kobakhidze said.

Irakli Kobakhidze responded to the Russian FM’s compliment for the Georgian government by saying that what matters for the ruling party is to uphold the national interests of Georgia, and not how it is evaluated by the North, West, South, or East.

Regarding Lavrov’s remarks on the potential resumption of direct flights with Georgia, the chairperson of Georgian Dream claimed that many Georgian citizens were negatively impacted by Russia’s unilateral suspension of direct flights in 2019. Kobakhidze said the restoration of flights is important for Georgian citizens and therefore, it would be a welcoming development.

Ukraine’s Charge d’affaires in Georgia was summoned for an explanation

The Georgian Foreign Ministry announced on 25 January that it had summoned Andrii Kasianov, Ukraine’s charge d’affaires in Georgia, to provide an explanation for the remarks he made a day earlier. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry reported on the same day that the Georgian Ambassador George Zakarashvili met Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yevhen Perebyinis.

In his interview with “Європейська правда”, Kasianov “did not rule out” that the possible resumption of flights between Georgia and Russia could prompt evacuation of the Ukrainian citizens from Georgia. Georgian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Lasha Darsalia noted that the remarks  were “groundless and harm bilateral relations.” The Georgian Foreign Ministry reported that the sides pledged to further develop the relations between the two countries, adding that Kyiv “is grateful for the assistance provided by Georgia.”

On January 24, MP Irakli Kobakhidze, leader of the ruling Georgian Dream party, called Kasianov’s remarks a “shameful speculation” and stressed that “Ukraine might have had to evacuate its citizens from Georgia if we had supplied Buk air defense systems (SA-17 Gadfly) to Ukraine, which would have meant our involvement in a military conflict.”

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that while meeting the Georgian envoy, Deputy Minister Perebyinis “expressed hope that Georgia will change its position and join those partners who provide Ukraine with weapons and military equipment and that Tbilisi will join all the sanctions introduced by the EU against the aggressor state.” Kyiv also reported that the Georgian Ambassador assured hosts that “Georgia has no intention to renew flights to the Russian Federation.”

The Ukrainian side reportedly thanked Georgia for helping with electricity generators and for launching rehabilitation projects for the Ukrainian children. Perebyinis also “raised the issue of deteriorating health” of Mikheil Saakashvili and the possibility of his transfer and treatment in Ukraine or another country.

Several Leaders of the opposition announced the “National Liberation Movement”

On 23 January, leaders of the parties “Droa,” “Strategy Aghmashenebeli,” and “Girchi-More Freedom,” as well as representatives of various facets of society, gathered on Rustaveli Avenue and announced the launch of a new “national liberation movement,” which, they say, will result in the abolition of “collaborationism” and the return of the usurped power to the people. They plan to organize a symbolic action of solidarity with the Ukrainian people on 24 February, the day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Demonstrations will continue, the organisers announced.

The Droa party’s leader, Elene Khoshtaria, stated that the ideas of Georgia’s dignity, European perspective, independence, and freedom are shared by everyone who came to the gathering that day. She also mentioned that 24 February draws the line between nations with a developed future and evil Russia, which has no future.

“On 24 February, we have to once again demonstrate [to the world] that despite quarrels, mistakes, and differences, we stand together in critical moments and declare that Georgia has a future of European development [standard] and Georgia will not go back to the past,” Khoshtaria stated.

Giorgi Vashadze, leader of the Strategy Agmashenebeli party, noted that the Georgian government has violated the constitution and is disregarding the will of the Georgian people to have a European future. “They [the government] are claiming that [being close to] Russia is better than building a strong Georgia together with the developed world. We cannot tolerate it,” he added.

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