09TBILISI212, GEORGIA: OFFICIALS AND PRESS DISMISS UNION OF

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI212 2009-02-05 10:46 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO8195
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0212/01 0361046
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051046Z FEB 09        ZDK DUE TO MANY SVC'S
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0894
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000212 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/04/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL RS GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: OFFICIALS AND PRESS DISMISS UNION OF 
GEORGIANS MEETING IN MOSCOW 
 
TBILISI 00000212  001.3 OF 002 
 
 
Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES A.I. KENT LOGSDON FOR REASONS 1.4 (b) 
AND (d) 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY.  The reaction in Georgia to the February 3 
meeting of the "Union of Georgians" in Russia, despite heavy 
coverage on Georgian television, has been mostly dismissive, 
with significant skepticism regarding its utility in 
improving relations between the neighbors.  Following the 
meeting, President Saakashvili made a brief statement noting 
the importance of direct government to government talks, 
should Russia be interested in contact, adding that most 
Georgians in Russia would never turn against their homeland. 
Some press observers noted that turnout was poor, despite 
Union leader Mikhail Khubutia's predictions that thousands 
would attend.  It was prominently noted both in the press and 
by government officials in Tbilisi, including Saakashvili, 
that the venue was changed due to the unexpectedly small size 
of the turnout, a sign of the unity of the Georgian people 
both inside and outside of Georgia itself.  Khubutia himself 
is widely assumed here in Tbilisi to be working for Russian 
secret services.  END SUMMARY. 
 
2. (SBU) In the weeks leading up to the February 3 meeting, 
the Georgian press has followed with interest the 
preparations for the "Union of Georgians" meeting in Russia, 
focusing on organizer Khubutia's links to the Russian 
Government and questioning the goal of such a meeting.  After 
the event, most press stories here covered the lack of 
attendance and embarrassment of the organizers associated 
with the changing of venues -- apparently the final choice of 
venue was a 300-seat auditorium that comfortably seated the 
193 attendees.  The lead story on the Russian-language "Nasha 
Abkhazia" website argued that the Union was an "FSB special 
project."  Other Georgian press took note of President 
Medvedev's lack of attendance in spite of a belief that he 
might make an appearance.  Also featured prominently in 
coverage was the small number of influential attendees from 
Georgia, comprising only three notable Georgian guests: 
Nestan Kirtadze, a member of the Labor party; Zrab 
Sotkilava, a famous Georgian tenor performing at the Bolshoi; 
and Diana Gurtskaya, a Georgian pop-singer and an IDP from 
Abkhazia who primarily lives in Moscow. 
 
3. (SBU) In spite of the appeals adopted by the meeting 
urging the Russian and Georgian presidents to resume trade 
and air transportation links, Georgian official reaction was 
downbeat, in an apparent attempt to downplay and degrade the 
value of the meeting.  President Saakashvili stressed that 
the lack of attendance was a sign of unity of the Georgian 
cause, calling it "civil heroism," and also noting that 
President Medvedev "changed his decision at the last minute" 
not to attend because of this.  Georgian Minister for 
Diaspora Issues Iulon Gagoshidze told the press that he had 
received a letter from a group of Georgian citizens in Russia 
urging him not to attend: he stressed that he had no 
intention of going and the letter merely reconfirmed that 
this was the right decision. Minister of Culture Nika Rurua 
also expressed his belief that the meeting was nothing more 
than a Kremlin-sponsored event not representative of Georgian 
opinion.  At a January 21 lunch with the Ambassador, a wide 
range of leading foreign policy experts were unanimous in 
their opposition to the event and all said that they would 
not attend. 
 
4. (C) In brief comments to Poloffs about his views on the 
Union of Georgians meeting in Moscow, Giorgi Dolidze, Deputy 
QUnion of Georgians meeting in Moscow, Giorgi Dolidze, Deputy 
Director of the Security Policy and Euro-Atlantic Integration 
Department at MFA, stressed a lack of interest in the event. 
He said Khubutia was widely believed to be firmly in the 
control of Russian Special Services and thus an unreliable 
actor in Georgian-Russian relations.  He noted in particular 
the lack of participation in the meeting, with an expected 
1200 participants turning into approximately 200-300 and 
resulting in an amusing last minute switch of venues.  He 
expressed skepticism that the Union of Georgians would could 
be used as a legitimate political force, particularly if the 
director was suspected of being a Russian agent and his 
organization was perceived as being overly sympathetic to 
Russian viewpoints. 
 
TBILISI 00000212  002.4 OF 002 
 
 
 
 
 
LOGSDON

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