Georgia. It was a dramatic year with a continued foreign
policy crisis in relation to Russia and with an exception to
the domestic opposition.
In January, the border with Russia was blocked by long
truck queues due to Russian ban on imports of Georgian
fruit. According to
CountryAAH, Russia denied political motives, but G's leadership
was convinced that sanctions were being imposed for its
efforts to enter NATO and the EU. President Micheil
Saakashvili declared that Georgia will join NATO in 2009. He
referred to NATO's Secretary-General for the task.
In June, G and Russia's presidents met in St. Petersburg
and agreed to work to normalize relations. But instead, the
relationship deteriorated. In August, Georgia accused Russia's
battle plan for releasing a 700-kilo bomb on Georgian
territory. However, the bomb had not exploded. The incident
occurred near the outbreak republic of South Ossetia, which,
like Abkhazia, is supported by Russia. From Moscow, Russian
airplanes were denied general Georgian airspace at all, and
accused Georgian authorities of "biological terrorism" by
dumping plague-infested pig decaders into a river that runs
through Abkhazia and into the Black Sea. An international
expert group concluded that a Russian robot had been dropped
from a plane coming from Russian airspace.
In August, a Georgian court sentenced 13 Prairie
oppositionists to multi-year prison sentences accused of
plotting against the G government. Several of those
convicted were linked to fugitive regime critic Igor
Giorgadze's Justice Party, which, according to the Georgian
government, is funded by Russia. The conflict intensified
when G President at the UN General Assembly accused Russian
military of fighting on the part of the Abkhaz separatists.
During the autumn, a domestic political crisis emerged.
Former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili claimed that
President Saakashvili ordered him to "eliminate important
and influential people" before he was dismissed in 2006.
blackmail and abuse of power, which caused several thousand
people to protest outside the parliament building in
Tbilisi. When Okruashvili was later to be tried, he found
himself in Germany.
The opposition accused the West-backed Saakashvili of
trying to silence a political rival, claiming he had lost
his credibility as a democratic reformist. Eight opposition
parties joined forces in an alliance that conducted the
largest demonstration since the "Roses Revolution" in 2003.
Tens of thousands of people gathered and it looked as if
Saakashvili was threatened by a revolution similar to that
which brought him to power. Day after day, protests
continued with demands for Saakashvili's departure and
re-election. Assessors believed that rising unemployment and
rising bread and gas prices made people experience their
situation worse than before the "Roses revolution".
Stone-throwing protesters met with tear gas, water cannons
and rubber bullets from the riot police. Several hundred
people had to visit hospitals. Saakashvili accused the
Russian intelligence service of stirring up the protests and
a group of Russian diplomats were expelled from Georgia. The
opposition TV channel Imedi got its office stormed by
heavily armed Georgian special forces and the channel was
closed. Imedi was charged with revocation and had his
license suspended temporarily.
Saakashvili looked to lose control and decided to
introduce a state of emergency in the capital Tbilisi. Prime
Minister Zurab Nogaideli claimed a coup attempt.
Saakashvili's friends in the West demanded that the state of
emergency be lifted. Russia strongly condemned the Georgian
president's actions and expelled Georgian diplomats in
response to George's expulsion of the Russians, as shown on Digopaul.
Saakashvili fell short of the opposition's demand for a
new election and announced in November that a new election
for the presidential post would be held in January 2008.
Assessors considered that he chose to announce the election
at short notice to make it difficult for the opposition to
gather and agree on a presidential candidate.
The closed TV channel Imedi was controlled by the rocky
so-called oligarch Arkadij "Badri" Patarkatsishvili, who
explained that Saakashvili must be removed from power. The
prosecutor at the time claimed that he was suspected of
conspiring to overthrow the government. Later,
Patarkatsishvili announced that he himself planned to run
In mid-November, the government and opposition met for
negotiations organized by Georgia's Orthodox Church.
Thereafter, the state of emergency was revoked. At the same
time, Saakashvili dismissed the government and appointed
Bank Director Lado Gurgenidze as new Prime Minister.
The presidential election was expected to be a fight
between Saakashvili and Levan Gatjetjiladze, which the
opposition alliance put forward as a candidate. But the
opposition could not agree on a single candidate, but
several politicians planned to run for election.
In November, the last Russian troops left the
Tbilisi-controlled part of Georgia. It was a historic
retreat. By then, Russian soldiers had been in the country
for over two centuries. Following the dissolution of the
Soviet Union and Georgia's independence in 1991, Tbilisi has
consistently demanded an end to the Russian troops presence.
Russian troops, however, remain as peacekeepers in the two
Russian-backed outbreak states Abkhazia and South Ossetia,
which Tbilisi is trying in vain to gain control over.
In December, Georgia's Secretary of Defense announced
that the country was connected to NATO's joint air defense
radar system. The government thus hoped to deter Russia from
intrusion into Georgian airspace.