Secret Services Thwart Russian Assassination Attempt on Journalist

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia claimed on Tuesday that the Georgian Secret Services (SSG) had thwarted a plot to assassinate Georgian journalist Giorgi Gabunia.

“The Georgian Secret Services have foiled a very serious crime,” Gakharia announced at a press briefing. He responded to claims by Nika Gvaramia, Gabunia’s boss, that a Russian assassin was sent to Georgia to kill the journalist.

Gabunia gained attention last July following an outburst against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Speaking in Russian live on Rustavi 2 TV station, he called Putin a “filthy invader” and insulted his mother saying: “Oh, your mother’s dead… Let her burn in hell with you and your father.”

Gvaramia, who is director of the pro-opposition TV station Mtavari Arkhi TV, claimed in a televised address on Monday that a Russian hitman under the name of Vasambeg Bovok came to Georgia to assassinate Gabunia.

Georgian authorities were alerted to the plot by Ukrainian authorities, Gvaramia claimed.

The SSG confirmed that they had arrested an “ethnic-Ingush Russian national, VB, for using fake identification documents.” The arrest was made as part of an investigation into “preparation of murder by contract.”

Russia has denied any attempted assassination. Dmitri Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, called the allegation “absurd”.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov also denied reports that he was behind the alleged plot to assassinate Gabunia. In a post on his Telegram channel, he wrote: “Believe me, if someone is acting on my orders, he will accomplish them, and if a mission is to be accomplished quietly, nobody will learn about it.”

“Giorgi Gabunia had better go down on his knees and ask for forgiveness… Otherwise, he will, I repeat, remain my enemy,” he threatened.

Kadyrov is known to be President Putin’s close ally. He has been linked to assassination plots in the past, including on journalists, but he has always denied any such claims.

Human rights organizations have accused the powerful leader of various human rights abuses, including the persecution of homosexuals, and torture and kidnapping of his opponents.

In response to Gabunia’s outburst last July, Kadyrov wrote: “In the Caucasus, a man does not say such words even against his enemy. Gabunia is a coward.”

He demanded an apology from the Georgian Government to President Putin and the Russian people, and called for a criminal investigation against Gabunia.

On Thursday, the SSG announced they had launched an investigation into the assassination and that they had reached out for more information “through Interpol”.

They also urged the media not to spread “fake information” so that they can “establish an objective truth in this case.”

Gabunia’s tirade last year came shortly after a wave of protests in Tbilisi against Russian occupation. In response, President Putin banned flights to Georgia.

Many Georgians consider that Russia occupies 20% of their country. A war in 2008 led to the Russian-backed breakaway of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two Georgian territories. Russia has military bases in both of these regions.

Gabunia’s outburst was criticized by both Georgian and Russian officials. The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the tirade a “deliberate action” to destabilize the country and impact “attempts at de-escalation” of tensions with Russia.

Gabunia currently hosts the ‘Post Factum’ show on Mtavari Arkhi after he was removed from Rustavi 2.

By Amy Jones

18 June 2020 19:21