09TBILISI827, GEORGIA: PROTESTS STAGNANT – SIGNS OF DESPERATION

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI827 2009-04-30 13:20 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO3273
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0827/01 1201320
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 301320Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1481
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000827 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/25/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: PROTESTS STAGNANT - SIGNS OF DESPERATION 
INCREASING 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  Protests continued on Wednesday, April 29 
although only about 2000-3000 attended, a number of who 
appeared to be onlookers enjoying a nice day rather than 
dedicated supporters.  Protest leaders have vowed to 
continue, but have not articulated a concrete plan.  GOG 
representatives have privately been in contact with Irakli 
Alasania (Alliance) in an attempt to arrange a meeting to 
negotiate a way to end the protests.  It appears a meeting 
may take place on April 30.  More and more Georgian voices 
are openly questioning the motives of those leading the 
protests.  An ever more confident President Saakashvili 
issued a statement calling the protests a very useful 
political cleansing process allowing Georgians to fully 
understand their choices.  An April 30 meeting between EU 
resident Ambassadors (including the U.S.) and opposition 
members to clarify events did anything but and quickly 
devolved into Salome Zourabichvili and Nino Burjanadze 
chastising the Ambassadors for their ignorance and inability 
to understand their roles.  An Alliance activist admitted 
that he had staged a "beating", and burned his car, in order 
to accuse the government of attacks against the opposition, 
although members of his party argued that he had confessed to 
doing this after being held for 8 hours by the police without 
an attorney present.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C)  Comment:  The non-parliamentary opposition continues 
to be on the defensive with both political commentators and 
the general public becoming increasingly critical of their 
actions.  In response to meager crowds and criticisms, the 
non-parliamentary opposition has chosen to heat up its 
rhetoric whereas the GoG appears content to let the 
non-parliamentary opposition further discredit itself.  We 
will continue to push for dialogue and also to caution the 
non-parliamentary leaders to avoid further exacerbating the 
situation.  End Comment. 
 
Protests Stagnant - Saakashvili Confident 
 
3.  (C)  The protests on Wednesday, April 29 attracted 1500 
according to MOIA numbers, although Embassy observers put the 
number closer to 2000-3000.  Central streets remain blocked; 
the Prime Minister convened the weekly government meeting on 
April 29 in the western city of Kutaisi.  Trash and human 
excrement are noticeable around the protest area and further 
damaging to public perceptions; a website myvideo.ge has 
footage showing a number of protesters in the "cells" taking 
narcotics.  edia outlets are beginning to report on drug use 
at the rallies as well.  No coherent strategy has emerged in 
the last few days.  Singer Utsnobi (Giorgi Gachechiladze and 
brother of protest leader Levan Gachechiladze) has indicated 
he might lead a march across the country.  Others have put 
forth the idea of constructing cell cities in provincial 
cities although all indications are the non-parliamentary 
opposition has no clear strategy as to what to do next.  Some 
statements have been made indicating a willingness to listen 
to the GoG's ideas for a way out of the crisis, but in the 
same breath opposition leaders often insist that the only 
solution is Saakashvili's resignation.  Apart from calling 
the protests a useful political cleansing process, 
Saakashvili said that Georgians do not care about the 
personal ambitions of politicians from the "center of 
Tbilisi".  Saakashvili appears confident and in the driver's 
seat.  He departed Tbilisi for Poland the evening of April 29 
to participate in a meeting of the European People's Party. 
Qto participate in a meeting of the European People's Party. 
 
EU Ambassador's Briefing Turns into Incoherent Angry Lecture 
 
4.  (C)  The briefing for EU Ambassadors that was organized 
by the non-parliamentary opposition to "further explain their 
position" and clear up misperceptions did anything but 
convince those in attendance that the non-parliamentary 
opposition has a coherent plan or possibly even a concept of 
objective reality.  (Embassy Note:  The EU Ambassadors 
invited the Ambassador to attend as well, which he did.  End 
Note.)  The group was lead by Nino Burjanadze (Democratic 
Movement - United Georgia), Salome Zourabichvili (Georgia's 
Way), David Usupashvili (Alliance - Republicans), and Kakha 
Kukava (Conservatives) who did not speak at the event. 
Although Irakli Alasania was expected to participate, he did 
not attend.  Nino Burjanadze started the meeting telling the 
Ambassadors that she would educate them on a number of 
misperceptions.  The "education" consisted of a long tirade 
about how immoral, undemocratic, and unjust Saakashvili was. 
Burjanadze said that if Saakashvili is not removed from power 
now, he will become worse than Belarusan President 
Lukashenko.  Burjanadze said that the non-parliamentary 
opposition had engaged in no violence; accused Minister of 
Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili (without citing any 
evidence) of deploying special forces against them; and even 
stated that she was a victim of a provocation because car 
 
TBILISI 00000827  002 OF 003 
 
 &
#x000A;windows were broken after her husband distributed bats to 
protesters (arguing that the MOIA and media inferred a link 
between the two events).  Finally, after Burjanadze told the 
Ambassadors that Merabishvili was surveilling them, she 
stated they should refrain from saying the opposition had no 
plan or expressing the opinion that Saakashvili should not be 
removed from power via protests (she did not say how she knew 
they were discussing in private). 
 
5.  (C)  Zourabichvili gave pointed comments to the group 
saving much of her venom for French Ambassador Eric Fournier 
who was not in attendance (he is currently in Paris at a 
conference).  When asked a question about dialogue, she 
scolded EU Ambassadors for giving the non-parliamentary 
opposition advice, apparently forgetting the Ambassadors did 
not request the meeting.  She went on to the inform the 
Ambassadors that as a former diplomat she was troubled that 
they did not have an understanding as to how to do their jobs 
properly.  The British Ambassador asked about their strategy; 
handing out baseball bats; intimidating the media; and the 
rights of the general citizenry being infringed by the 
protests.  Usupashvili blamed the baseball bats and the 
protests on Saakashvili saying they needed to defend 
themselves and that Saakashvili left them no choice but to 
protest.  All avoided answering the question on whether or 
not they had a plan.  In fact, Usupashvili cited the lack of 
a coherent plan as a tribute to the democratic nature of the 
non-parliamentary opposition.  When the Estonian Ambassador 
followed up about their willingness to negotiate only 
Saakashvili's resignation, Zourabichvili, Usupashvili, and 
Burjanadze took turns calling Saakashvili a liar.  They said 
they would listen to the GoG's position "without 
preconditions," but will only negotiate Saakashvili's 
resignation and ruled out any "real" role for the Georgian 
Patriarch in mediation.  Perhaps sensing the obvious 
irritation of most of the Ambassadors, Usupashvili 
interjected that they were reasonable people and would be 
open to allowing Saakashvili to resign in mid-May, after the 
NATO exercises.  The Dutch Ambassador once again tried to ask 
the "plan" question only to be shouted down by Zourabichvili 
which prompted the Estonian Ambassador to ask aloud what the 
point of the meeting was since they (pointing at the 
non-parliamentary opposition) refused to answer any 
questions.  The EU Ambassadors demurred on Burjanadze's offer 
to meet twice a week to get more "accurate" information. 
 
Misha Winning 
 
6.  (C)  MP Peter Mamradze (officially unaffiliated, but a 
supporter of former PM Noghaideli) and former chief of 
Administration to ex-PM Zurab Zhvania and Noghaideli said the 
only thing the protests have done is make Saakashvili 
stronger.  Mamradze said from the start the tactics used by 
the non-parliamentary opposition have only served to anger 
the public and discredit them as leaders.  He said that a 
stronger Saakashvili is an unfortunate, though foreseeable 
outcome and that every day the protests continue, the 
stronger Saakashvili's position is.  Mamradze (who took part 
in the first day's protest) said that right before and right 
after the April 9 protest, serious concessions could have 
been achieved, but the non-parliamentary opposition's sole 
focus on Saakashvili's resignation squandered its political 
leverage.  Mamradze said he feared that an increasingly 
radical Burjanadze would lead her "clan" to take the Georgian 
Public Broadcaster building, saying he has been hearing that 
QBurjanadze was considering this as a last gasp move. 
Mamradze likened the current opposition logic to a protest 
lead by former President Gamsakhurdia in 1991 against the 
Soviets.  Gamsakhurdia organized Georgians to lie across rail 
tracks to block shipments from the Russian S.S.R. into the 
Georgian S.S.R.  which would "bring the Kremlin to its 
knees".  The result was that after two weeks, the Kremlin 
diverted the cargo for which the Georgians had already paid 
into North Ossetia where it was resold - the Georgians ended 
up with nothing and the Kremlin got double profits.  Mamradze 
wryly noted that the non-parliamentary opposition was 
incapable of learning and that the protests meant to bring 
down Saakashvili have only served to strengthen him. 
 
Signs of Movement from the Alasania Camp 
 
7.  (C)  Mamradze said that Burjanadze views Alasania as her 
only potential rival in the non-parliamentary camp for the 
post of President.  Mamradze indicated that Burjanadze was 
doing everything in her power to undermine him and had been 
fairly successful in lowering Alasania's standing both 
publicly and among the non-parliamentary opposition.  The 
handshake with Saakashvili was a public indication that 
Alasania was considering making a move apart from the 
non-parliamentary group.  Alasania confidante, and former 
Georgian Ambassador to Turkmenistan Alex Petriashvili told 
PolChief that they (Alasania's inner circle which does not 
 
TBILISI 00000827  003 OF 003 
 
 
include either David Usupashvili or David Gamkrelidze) were 
considering gains that could be achieved short of 
Saakashvili's resignation.  Petriashvili said that one 
condition would be that any deal would have to include some 
element of negotiation with Saakashvili and some sort of 
joint announcement with Saakashvili.  (Embassy Comment: 
Alasania might still have the leverage to negotiate directly 
with Saakashvili.  At this point, only Alasania appears to be 
thinking about a negotiated solution out of the impasse.  End 
Comment.)  Petriashvili noted his own personal difficulties 
in working with David Gamkrelidze (Alliance - New Rights), 
and Alasania, who has always privately appeared lukewarm to 
both Gamkrelidze and Usupashvili, may be willing to break if 
he senses that the "Alliance" no longer suits his political 
purposes.  Petriashivli said that any negotiated settlement 
would have to include protections for protesters from GoG 
reprisals. 
 
Who is Provoking - Who Knows? 
 
8.  (C)  Post has been following up on all publicized 
allegations of political intimidation.  The recent allegation 
that an Alliance activist had been attacked and his car 
burned might have been untrue.  He admitted to staging a 
beating and burning his car, although his political 
colleagues argue that he was interrogated for eight hours by 
police without an attorney present before he made his 
confession.  This follows a previous report that the Alliance 
had approached a citizen involved in a normal traffic stop 
and offered to compensate him if he claimed the stop was a 
MOIA provocation and political repression.  Post does not 
rule out that certain groups or individuals have been using 
intimidation to suppress opposition voices; however, a number 
of other beatings have occurred with non-parliamentary 
leaders arriving almost immediately on the scene drawing 
suspicion as to the veracity of the claims.  This could be an 
indication that the opposition is prepared to use &#x00
0A;increasingly desperate measures to draw the GoG into violence 
in order to rekindle public support. 
TEFFT

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