09TBILISI979, GEORGIA: PATRIARCHATE BACKTRACKS – VIOLENCE ERUPTS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI979 2009-05-29 12:24 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO5844
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0979/01 1491224
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 291224Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1626
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000979 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/29/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: PATRIARCHATE BACKTRACKS - VIOLENCE ERUPTS 
 
REF: TBILISI 972 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  A group of about 500 protesters picketed 
the Mayor's office on May 28 from about noon until 3pm.  The 
rally with about 1000-2000 protesters reconvened for a 
concert in front of Parliament later that evening.  Violence 
erupted around 9pm local time when protesters allegedly 
attacked a plain clothes policeman.  Other plain clothes 
police appeared on the scene and were also attacked.  In sum, 
14 people were injured, 8 of whom were policemen.  Two 
policemen were seriously wounded, underwent surgery, and 
remain hospitalized.  Six policemen sustained minor injuries 
and were released.  No information was available on the 6 
protesters who were injured.  Earlier, the Patriarchate 
backtracked from the Patriarch's comments of May 26 which 
were widely perceived as a show of support for President 
Saakashvili.  The Patriarch's secretary read a statement 
saying that the Patriarch's May 26 statement should not be 
viewed as only supportive of the GoG.  The statement called 
upon the GoG to diffuse the situation by calling for early 
elections, dialogue, or other means.  Non-parliamentary 
opposition leaders pounced upon the statement while the GoG 
said its position on early elections remained unchanged. 
MoIA sources had earlier indicated to Poloff on May 26, that 
some sort of walkback was not out of the questions due to 
hard-line anti-Saakashvili members in the Patriarchate who 
would be displeased with the original statement.  Meanwhile, 
contacts between Irakli Alasania and the GoG continue while 
David Usupashvili reported that he was currently at an 
impasse in discussions.  Non-parliamentary leaders have not 
announced further plans.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C)  Comment:  The statement issued from the Patriarchate 
certainly confused the overall situation and is unlikely to 
help bring stability and calm among the parties.  The sum 
total of both remarks is likely negligible as supporters on 
both sides will read into the somewhat vague and 
contradictory statements whatever they choose.  We view it as 
more likely than not the statement, which was not read by the 
Patriarch, was a result of internal political battles within 
the Patriarchate rather than a show of support for the 
non-parliamentary opposition.  Nevertheless, the 
"clarification" will undoubtedly bolster the 
non-parliamentary opposition at least temporarily. 
Ominously, evidence is growing (acknowledged by some leaders 
themselves) that the non-parliamentary leaders only nominally 
control their crowds.  Having raised expectations that 
Saakashvili would resign within a week of protests; after 7 
weeks on the streets, a frustrated, hard-core group of 
protesters and leaders appear to favor much more radical 
actions and possibly even violence to achieve their goals. 
End Comment. 
 
Protests Small but Turn Violent 
 
3.  (C)  A small group of about 400-500 protesters led by 
Nino Burjanadze (Democratic Movement - United Georgia), 
Salome Zourabichvili (Georgia's Way), David Gamkrelidze 
(Alliance - New Rights), and Eka Beselia (United Georgia) 
picketed the Mayor's office.  The group stayed in front of 
the Mayor's office for about 3 hours with leaders denouncing 
the "totalitarian regime", and protesters throwing eggs at 
the building.  About 7pm a group of 1000-2000 protesters 
convened in front of Parliament for a rally/concert.  MoIA 
reported that a number of scuffles broke out among 
protesters.  At some point, a plain-clothes policeman who was 
filming the rally was attacked, dragged into a side-street 
Qfilming the rally was attacked, dragged into a side-street 
beaten and stabbed.  Other policemen came to his aid and when 
the incident was over 14 people were apparently wounded.  Six 
policemen were released with minor injuries and two were 
seriously wounded and remain hospitalized.  No information is 
known on the status of the six injured protesters (some 
non-parliamentary opposition members claim ten were injured). 
 (Embassy Note:  Information as to the event itself is 
unclear as is what exactly sparked the confrontation.  End 
Note.)  The non-parliamentary opposition claimed repression 
with Zourabichvili announcing that the "government went 
savage."  Thus far, no non-parliamentary opposition has 
publicly addressed the behavior of their supporters.  The 
MoIA has detained two individuals as a result of the incident. 
 
The Patriarch Giveth - Then Taketh Away 
 
4.  (C)  After the Patriarch gave a statement widely viewed 
as pro-GoG during his May 26 sermon, the Patriarchate issued 
a clarification on May 28.  The written statement that was 
read by a church official said in part that the May 26 
statement "was made with the purpose of diffusing a difficult 
situation."  It continued that "(i)t does not mean that the 
problem is over.  The situation remains serious and 
explosive.  We think that the authorities should take 
 
TBILISI 00000979  002 OF 002 
 
 
effective steps to deuse tension either through early 
elections, negotiations, or other means."  The 
n
on-parliamentary opposition viewed the statement as a great 
victory saying it meant the Patriarch supported new 
presidential elections.  The GoG which had remained mum on 
the Patriarch's May 26 statement simply reiterated its 
commitment to dialogue while ruling out pre-term presidential 
or parliamentary elections.  MoIA contacts had indicated to 
Poloff as early as May 26 that they were surprised by such a 
strong statement by the Patriarch, and that anti-Saakashvili, 
anti-Western hard-liners in the Patriarchate were already 
working to issue some sort of counter-statement.  The same 
contacts said in their view the recent statement represented 
an internal church struggle coupled with a desire to be seen 
as neutral rather than support for the non-parliamentary 
opposition.  (Embassy Note:  Georgian Embassy employees seem 
to believe the Patriarch's initial statement during his 
service carries more weight among the public than the written 
statement issued on May 28.  End Comment.) 
 
Usupashvili Warns of Radicalism - Explains Paralysis 
 
5.  (C)  Republican Party leader David Usupashvili met with 
the DCM to discuss the current state of affairs in the 
non-parliamentary opposition.  He described the decision 
making mechanism as exhausting with Burjanadze leading the 
call for more radical actions.  Usupashvili told the DCM he 
feared what Burjanadze's ultimate intentions were. 
Usupashvili said his role (with some others) was to try to 
moderate the radicals to avoid violence or even create the 
potential for violence.  Usupashvili described the meetings 
as a constant fight among the groups with a version of the 
status quo generally prevailing.  He admitted that as time 
passed and more moderate actions did not achieve results, the 
radicals were gaining the upper hand.  Usupashvili told the 
DCM that they were losing control of an increasingly radical 
crowd.  He said the decision was made to block railroad 
tracks because the crowd was ready for violence on May 26. 
Usupashvili said he called Speaker Bakradze to explain the 
situation and urged Bakradze to allow them to simply "blow 
off some steam" and not respond.  Usupashvili said the 
non-parliamentary opposition never discussed any overall 
strategic plans, simply the day's tactics.  He indicated that 
a major reason the National Forum left the group was because 
its leaders were tired over arguing with Burjanadze, Beselia, 
Zourabichvili and other radicals over tactics.  Usupashvili 
said that the National Forum's departure and Alasania 
distancing himself from the group had strengthened the hard 
liners. 
 
6.  (C)  Usupashvili seemed unclear himself as to what to do 
next.  He said Alasania was speaking with Bakradze but was 
not privy as to exactly what was occurring with his so called 
political ally.  Usupashvili indicated that Alasania was 
naive to think that Saakashvili would not try to destroy him 
if he left the non-parliamentary group.  He added that if 
Alasania ran for Tbilisi mayor, the non-parliamentary 
opposition would run multiple candidates to try to ensure he 
never got the position.  Usupashvili agreed that his natural 
position was not among the radicals but rather with Alasania 
in moderate opposition.  Despite this acknowledgment, he said 
he had little choice other than to ride the situation out. 
Usupashvili said increasing radicalism among the group meant 
a crossroads could come quickly.  As far as GoG dialogue, 
Usupashvili last discussed specifics with Bakradze before May 
QUsupashvili last discussed specifics with Bakradze before May 
26.  Usupashvili said parliamentary elections within the year 
was the minimum demand in which he could break and begin 
negotiations.  Bakradze indicated that the GoG would not 
discuss the issue within the next 6 months and was only 
offering dialogue with a possibility of early parliamentary 
elections in the future.  Usupashvili said Gachechiladze and 
others were boxed into a similar holding pattern.  He 
explained that the protesters would not be satisfied with 
anything less than new parliamentary elections and would 
likely be disappointed at that.  (Embassy Comment: 
Usupashvili is probably correct; however, he did not care to 
discuss his and the other non-parliamentary opposition's own 
role in raising said expectations to unrealistic heights. 
End Comment.)  Apart from the decision making process which 
tends to maintain the status quo, Usupashvili said many 
simply wanted to keep the protests going for fear of MoIA 
reprisals if they stopped.  Usupashvili appeared tired, 
dispirited, and philosophic, tending to portray himself as an 
unfortunate victim of circumstance.  He indicated that he was 
still ready to pursue dialogue but that talks between him and 
Bakradze were at an impasse. 
TEFFT

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