Presidential Candidate Zurabishvili Claims Georgia Started August 2008 War

Salome Zurabishvili, an independent presidential candidate who will likely be supported by the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party in the race, has accused her own country of starting the war against the Russian Federation in August 2008.

The candidate made the statement after nominating herself a presidential candidate on a visit to the Mukhatgverdi Brothers Cemetery to pay tribute to the fallen heroes on the 10th anniversary of the war that left 20% of Georgian territories occupied by the Russian Federation.

Standing at the graves of the soldiers, the candidate accused then President Mikheil Saakashvili of following the provocation of Russia, which located its forces in occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia in early August 2008.

“Starting the war was the whim of a crazy president who ordered the bombing of his own population. He started the war!” Zurabishvili stated.

Her statements were followed by criticism from politicians and citizens, who claim that Zurabishvili is repeating the Russian version of the story that Georgia broke onto the territory of an independent state [S. Ossetia] which served as the reason for responsive actions.

Another presidential candidate, Nino Burjanadze, who is ex-PM and the leader of Russia-affiliated Democratic Movement-United Georgia, voiced the same position as Zurabishvili.

According to Burjanadze, it is impossible to start negotiations with the Russian Federation and the de facto authorities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia unless Georgia admits it was Saakashvili who started the war and holds him responsible for his actions.

“It would have been possible to avoid this war…Saakashvili thought that Russia would not dare to get involved in this war and that the US would protect us, but he was mistaken. This is my position,” Burjanadze said at the cemetery.

Georgian Dream faction Chair Mamuka Mdinaradze said that the ruling party has not expressed its support to any presidential candidate, and that Zurabishvili’s statement is unacceptable.

“The statement of any person that Georgia is an aggressor state and started the August war is unacceptable for me,” he added.

Thea Tsulukiani, Georgia’s Justice Minister, has not criticized Zurabishvili but stated that the Hague-based International Criminal Court, which authorized a probe into possible war crimes committed by Russian, Georgian and South Ossetian forces during the conflict, will soon declare that Russia is an occupant.

“Our government and the ruling party have one position only: that it was Russia which started this war,” the Minister stressed.

One of the leaders of the parliamentary minority European Georgia, Giga Bokeria, says that everyone connected with Putin is “a useful political idiot.”

Member of the opposition party, the United National Movement, Salome Samadashvili, believes that if Zurabishvili becomes President, it will lead to international recognition of Georgia’s occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “independent states,” which was done in 2008 by Russia, and later by Nicaragua, Nauru, Venezuela and this year by Syria.

“If people vote for Zurabishvili, it will signal that we are refusing to restore Georgia’s territorial integrity and unity,” she added.

Salome Zurabishvili was an independent candidate in the 2016 parliamentary elections and the GD decided to withdraw their candidate in Mtatsminda region to help her win the seat in the legislative body.

By Thea Morrison

09 August 2018 19:06