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President accused of manipulation

The Georgian president accused of manipulation

The article below was published in Le Figaro in French.

Le président géorgien accusé de manipulation, Le Figaro, May 26

The explosion of two buses in front of cameras raises questions.

The latest developments are not likely to calm the crisis between Georgia and Russia, which has worsened since April. Whilst both countries are said to be "close to a war" while claiming to seek peaceful solutions, they engage in a battle of information. So on Wednesday, the day of parliamentary elections in Georgia, the TV broadcast images of a fusilade taken in the Georgian village of Khourcha, on the edge of territory controlled by the separatists of Abkhazia.

Two buses explode in front of the cameras during a shooting at civilians coming to exercise their right to vote from the separatist region where they live. The same evening, President Mikhail Saakashvili takes himself off to the bedside of Nana Kardava, one of four wounded. He then declares: "Because they wanted to participate in the elections, our compatriots were shot." To Figaro, Ms. Kardava will affirm that she did "not come to Khourcha [the theatre of the incidents] to vote on the Georgian side. I went for my job as a school-principal. We have so many problems in our everday lives in Gali that the elections are not our priority." Emma Gogokhia, local correspondent for Rustavi 2, a TV-station controlled by those close to power, asserts that she saw Nana Kardava arrive hurt from the Abkhazian side. This would prove the thesis of the authorities according to which the Abkhazians and Russian soldiers of "peace" prevented the Georgians of Gal from participating in the voting. But the director of school gives the lie to this: "I was wounded where I was found, in Khurcha," on the Georgian side.

The Rustavi 2 journalist asseverates that some "citizens called me to film them arriving the Georgian side passing along the river (the border, Ed) beside the stadium." There, she asserts that a "hundred Georgians from Gali [area populated by Georgians but controlled by Abkhaz separatists] were present." An unlikely piece of information.

"A small production"

Some villagers say that strangers came before the shooting "to ask them to come to the stadium for a small stage-production. But very quickly shooting started and we stayed inside." Other witnesses have assured two officials of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee that the incidents were organized by the Georgians. In the absence of irrefutable evidence, the Norwegian NGO calls for an independent investigation. Was the incident aimed at diverting attention from the abuses that marred the election? On Monday, the opposition amassed 30,000 demonstrators in front of the Parliament in Tbilisi. The coalition of the United Opposition, which won only 16 seats out of 150 (against 120 for the party of President Saakashvili), plans to boycott the new parliament. The international electoral observer mission noted progress in comparison with the presidential election in January. While denouncing pressures, it did not question the victory of the governing party.

Source: Le Figaro

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