GRASS Disinfo Brief - 11-18 September

28 September, 2023
  • US Department of State sanctions former Chief Prosecutor Otar Partskhaladze, says he is a “Georgian-Russian oligarch whom the FSB has leveraged to influence Georgian society and politics for the benefit of Russia”
  • State Security Service says “Global War Party” conspiracy theory is a reality without providing relative evidence
  • Information about the US proposing to dislocate its military bases in Georgia sparks debates about potential security guarantees, NATO
  • Propaganda portrays Western integration as a devastating path for Georgia
  • Propaganda continues to push for restoration of relations with Russia, relieves all blame from Moscow
  • Propaganda blames the US, collective West for sparking conflicts in Ukraine, the Caucasus

US Department of State sanctions former Chief Prosecutor Otar Partskhaladze, says he is a “Georgian-Russian oligarch whom the FSB has leveraged to influence Georgian society and politics for the benefit of Russia”

On September 14th, the US Department of State announced further sanctions in response to Russia’s illegal war against Ukraine. The official statement reads that they designated “one Russian Intelligence Services officer and one Georgian-Russian oligarch”. The mentioned Georgian-Russian oligarch turned out to be Georgia’s former Chief Prosecutor, Otar Partskhaladze, while the Russian Intelligence Services officer was named Aleksandr Onischenko. According to the Department of State, Onischenko, a Russian FSB officer, helped Otar Partskhaladze to acquire a Russian passport, possibly Russian citizenship. Partskhaladze embraced his new Russian identity and often travelled to the country. Onischenko and other FSB officers were leveraging Partskhaladze to influence Georgian society and politics for the benefit of Russia. Two Russian-based management consultation companies – LLC Moscow Business Brokerage and LLC International Business Corporation were also sanctioned. Partskhaladze owes 50% shares of both companies.

  • GD Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze stated that just like in the case of US-sanctioned Georgian judges, concrete evidence had not been released about Partskhaladze’s links to the Russian FSB and his pro-Russian influence on Georgian society; therefore, it is hard for the ruling party to react accordingly. The Georgian National Bank stated that in accordance with international sanctions, Partskhaladze’s access to bank assets and execution of financial transactions are limited. According to Kobakhidze, the National Bank’s decision is a gross violation of the Georgian constitution. Specifically, it violates the principle of presumption of innocence, guaranteed by the constitution. The following day the National Bank stated that it amended its regulation which effectively shielded Partskhaladze from sanctions and restored his access to bank assets (More on this in the next edition).
  • Chairman of the Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, noted that Otar Partskhaladze has been absent from state institutions for a decade and has been sanctioned as a private individual. This is not the first instance of a Georgian citizen facing sanctions related to Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine. Papuashvili emphasized that Georgia is committed to adhering to the sanctions imposed on Russia, and relevant institutions will thoroughly examine this matter.
  • GD leader and Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze emphasized that, although Georgia has not officially joined the sanctions against Russia, the country is committed to ensuring that it does not serve as a conduit for bypassing these sanctions. Kaladze pointed out that many individuals have been affiliated with GD in the past, including Otar Partskhaladze, who previously held positions within state institutions during the UNM government. However, he clarified that Partskhaladze is currently a private citizen and not associated with any government body. Several days later, Kaladze revisited the topic of Partskhaladze's sanctions and stressed the importance of providing more concrete evidence to prove his links with the Russian FSB. He reiterated the earlier statement made by Kobakhidze, asserting that Georgian judges had also been sanctioned by the United States without clear evidence. According to Tbilisi's Mayor, when a strategic partner imposes sanctions on a Georgian citizen, it is crucial to provide substantiated evidence to the Georgian people.
  • Giorgi Volski, the First Vice-Speaker of the Parliament, argued that if U.S. institutions possess evidence, Georgian authorities will thoroughly investigate the matter. However, Volski expressed uncertainty about how Otar Partskhaladze may have influenced Georgian politics. He emphasized that Georgia's foreign policy has remained consistent. The only instance that comes to mind, in terms of potential influence on Georgian politics to benefit Russia, is the situation in 2008 when former President Mikheil Saakashvili defied the U.S. political establishment and took actions that ultimately led to the Russian occupation of Georgian territories.
  • Vice-Speaker of the Parliament Archil Talakvadze said that there are many individuals who have been sanctioned by the US regarding the war in Ukraine, although there have been certain instances when sanctions were lifted. There are many information sources and the possibility of the US receiving inadequate information should not be excluded. Talakvadze went on to share his personal perspective on Partskhaladze, asserting that he does not believe that he is the kind of individual who would act against the interests of his own country and undermine Georgia.
  • GD MP Irakli Kadagishvili stated that more specific evidence should be presented so that relative Georgian institutions can study the issue. Kadagishvili also recalled how the US sanctioned Georgian judges without providing further information, which he found surprising. In a different statement, Kadagishvili underlined that external and internal forces are accusing Georgia of being linked to Russia. Although the MP emphasized that Otar Partskhaladze has not been employed in state institutions for ten years, he takes the former Chief prosecutor's statement into account, according to which the sanctions are a personal vendetta against him. Because of a lack of concrete evidence, Kadagishvili suspects that the radical “Global War Party” is attempting to damage Georgia’s path to European integration and increase polarization in the country, which will ultimately stir up the situation internally.
  • GD MP Irakli Zarkua also underlined that the US did not provide enough evidence after they sanctioned Georgian judges, stating that the decision was based on information provided by Georgian CSOs. Zarkua claimed that the decision was an attempt by radicals and their patrons to go against the Georgian Prosecutor’s office and the Georgian court system. The State Department is making a mistake, and their statements should not be considered as a given truth because they made a mistake before with the Georgian judge’s case.
  • “People’s Party” movement (founded by Georgian Dream splinters who remain in parliamentary majority and formally initiated so called “Foreign Agents” law in February, 2023) released a statement with several claims. The statement assesses the Department of State’s explanation for the sanctioning of Partskhaladze as “not serious”, which points to the fact that the decision was politically motivated. Partskhaladze has not been involved in Georgian politics and is not a public figure. Therefore, it is uncertain how he would be able to influence Georgian society and politics. According to the statement, if the US really cared about Georgia, they would release information about Partskhaladze and let the Georgian people decide how to act rather than issuing sanctions themselves. The Americans are attempting to replace the Georgian population and make decisions on its behalf, which is a method of hybrid warfare. With similar steps, the American official structures operating under the dictates of the “Global War Party”, prove that they do not recognize Georgia’s statehood and show a disrespectful attitude towards the Georgian society. The US will only recognize the Georgian government’s legitimacy if the “Global War Party’s” agents, “the collective UNM”, gain governmental power. The statement once again argues that the “Global War Party” is not forgiving Georgia for not opening a second front and is trying to stir up the situation in the country to overthrow the government. “The Global War Party” and its local branch, “the collective UNM”, are preparing for October-November. Their calculation is that at the end of October, the European Commission will publish a negative conclusion on the granting candidate status to Georgia, which they will use as another attempt to organize a revolution.

Georgia’s State Security Service says “Global War Party” conspiracy theory is a reality without providing relative evidence

On September 18th, the State Security Service of Georgia released a statement that a certain group operating both outside the country and internally is planning to destabilize the country and cause a crisis in the October-December period to overthrow the current government. October-December is a period when the European Commission will release its conclusion regarding Georgia’s candidate status, and according to the statement, the expectation of the conspirators preparing to overthrow the government is based on the assumption that the published conclusion will be negative, creating a fertile ground for riots, which conspirators will utilize. State Security Service named the main authors of the alleged plan - The former Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia and current Deputy Head of Military Intelligence of Ukraine, Giorgi Lortkipanidze, the former member of the Mikheil Saakashvili’s security detail, Mikheil Baturin, and the commander of the “Georgian Legion” operating in Ukraine, Mamuka Mamulashvili. The statement reads that the mentioned plan will be implemented with the coordination and financial support of foreign countries. The plan includes a rather large group of Georgians fighting in Ukraine and a part of Georgian youth under the influence of the conspirators. Allegedly, Georgian youth is being trained near the Polish-Ukrainian state border. State Security Service alleges that the plan entails barricading state institutions and other provocative actions. The statements also allege that there is verified information about executing a “Euromaidan-like scenario”. Furthermore, it is stated that conspirators plan to detonate a bomb during their protests to kick-start an indiscriminate shooting between the law enforcement officers and the protestors, creating a fertile ground for further civil confrontation.

  • GD Chairman stated that the information spread by the State Security Service is disturbing and all measures should be taken to prevent any attempt to disrupt the situation.
  • Chairman of the Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, asserted that the information disseminated by the State Security Service had already been evident to the Georgian society due to the radical opposition's persistent efforts to seize governmental power through disruptive means. Papuashvili went on to remark that Gia Lortkipanidze, identified by the State Security Service as a key figure in the conspiracy, may be of Georgian ethnicity, but does not have a Georgian heart and soul. Papuashvili contended that Lortkipanidze had previously been involved in facilitating the clandestine entry of Mikheil Saakashvili into the country, marking this as the second instance of his participation in a conspiracy against the Georgian state. In Papuashvili's view, even without the State Security Service's statement, it was evident that certain segments of the opposition and NGOs had engaged in cooperation with foreign intelligence services.
  • Vice-Speaker of the Parliament, Archil Talakvadze assessed the State Security Service’s statement as disturbing. He further pointed out that earlier in the year, the opposition had taken deliberate steps to prevent Georgia from attaining candidate status, a move seemingly designed to sow chaos in the country with the intention of assuming power through illegitimate means. Talakvadze also highlighted past instances where the opposition had attacked key state institutions such as the Parliament and the Central Election Committee, coupled with numerous attempts to destabilize the nation. Given this context, Talakvadze argued that the State Security Service's statement aligns with these past actions, and there appears to be little reason to question its validity.
  • GD MP Mamuka Mdinaradze argued that as UNM becomes weaker, there is more risk that they will resort to illegal activities. When the UNM realises they cannot come into power through legitimate elections, they will attempt to use destructive methods. According to Mdinaradze, UNM has a bloody past, and it is not surprising that its future plans are also bloody.
  • GD MP Irakli Kadagishvili reiterated that this is not the first time the opposition attempted to undermine the government illegally and that Saakashvili’s entrance into the country also aimed to destabilize Georgia. Kadagishvili stated that there is an ideological training of people, actively using propaganda and cliches about GD, calling it “a Russian government”. According to Kadagishvili, these are attempts to execute a bloody revolutionary scenario.
  • People’s Party movement released another statement according to which the State Security Service disclosed very important information but did not specify who exactly was behind the plan to destabilise the country. The statement reads that the main perpetrators are foreigners and members of “the Global War Party”. People’s Party claims that “the Global War Party” was weakened during Donald Trump’s presidency. The US was not involved in any wars or revolutions. However, after Trump’s loss in 2020, “the Global War Party” became active again and stirred up the situation globally, including in Georgia. People’s Power movement claims that the plan to overthrow the current Georgian government was made in the US. Former US Ambassador Kelly Degnan and former EU Ambassador were attempting to undermine GD, causing an artificial political crisis. The ultimate goal was to overthrow the government and open two fronts against Russia – one in Georgia and one in Ukraine. The statement also criticises the incoming US Ambassador to Georgia, Robin Dunnigan, claiming that she was personally involved in organising a “Maidan” revolution in Ukraine in 2014. People’s Party also claims that there are 500 Georgian activists being trained on the Ukraine-Poland state border, and plans include 400 Georgian soldiers currently fighting in Ukraine.
  • The statement released by the State Security Service of Georgia hugely benefited pro-Russian groups, including Alt Info, which has been actively spreading the narrative that the West has been attempting to destabilize the country to drag Georgia into a war against Russia. Konstantine Morgoshia, one of the prominent leaders of Alt Info, released a written statement that effervescently emphasized that his predictions were right. The propagandist also predicts that the country’s fate will be decided on the streets, and conservative-minded people should be ready for it. Another pro-Russian propagandist from Alt-Info, Shota Martinenko, argued that it would be easy for the West to stage a Maidan-like scenario because GD can be easily pressured or bribed.
  • Even before the State Security Service released the statement, pro-Russian propagandist and Sezoni TV broadcaster Nikoloz Mzhavanadze stated that there are plans to execute a Maidan-like scenario in Georgia during the October-December period. The propagandist argued that the EU staged the Maidan protests in Kyiv and is planning to do the same in Georgia.
  • A propaganda source linked to Alt Info also underscored how Alt Info has been conducting “anti-Maidan” activities for a long time, but the government has just now realised the real threat. The propagandist claimed that GD is still lying to people and keeping the truth about the West’s intentions behind the scenes.
  • The editor of a pro-Russian website “Saqinform” reached similar conclusions as GD members and expressed that the initial plan was to sneak Mikheil Saakashvili into the country and overthrow the government, which failed. The new plan encompasses Georgian-Ukrainian fighters who will rescue Saakashvili from prison and return to power with the West’s blessing, after which the Georgian-Ukrainian fighter groups will attack Russia’s bases on Georgian territory, effectively opening a second front. According to the propagandist, for the plan to commence, the EU has to deny Georgia candidate status, which is why the radical opposition and President Zourabichvili are doing everything to ensure that this happens.

Information about the US proposing to dislocate its military bases in Georgia sparks debates about potential security guarantees, NATO

On September 12th, Mtavari TV Channel spread information about how the US had "rounds of meetings" with the Georgian side regarding the establishment of US military bases in Georgia, but the Georgian Dream government chose the policy of not provoking Russia. Both the US Embassy in Georgia and the Georgian Ministry of Defence have since officially refuted these assertions. Nevertheless, this episode sparked debate about the idea of hosting US military bases in Georgia.

  • GD Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze also refuted the claim of US having offered opening military base in Georgia and stated that the only security guarantee for Georgia is NATO membership, and separate military bases cannot guarantee a country’s security. Several days later, while answering journalists questions, Kobakhidze referred to NATO’s open-door policy and the situation with Georgia’s potential membership and stated that standing in an open door with a draft of wind is very dangerous and can cause harm, therefore Kobakhidze expressed hope that Georgia will not be made to stand in the door for too long. Kobakhidze stated that disinformation was spread by the “collective UNM”, but they were caught in their lies by the US embassy. GD Chairman underlined that US embassy was not releasing objective information while Kelly Degnan was the US Ambassador in Georgia and since she left the situation has improved.
  • GD member and Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze made similar remarks and emphasized that the only thing that can protect Georgia is NATO membership. Kaladze made a rash statement that the open-door policy is not enough, and if NATO has the guts, it should accept Georgia as a member.
  • “People’s Power” MP Guram Matcharashvili stated that Georgia is compatible with NATO standards, but there is no political will now or in the near future to accept Georgia as a member. When the country is in a constant standby mode, while being compatible to standards, it is naturally tiring and makes society nihilistic. The MP added that it should not be anyone’s dream to dislocate a foreign country’s military bases in Georgia and that a NATO security umbrella is a very different issue.

Propaganda portrays Western integration as a devastating path for Georgia

  • A propagandist on Sezoni TV urged that the recommendations issued by the EU for Georgia should not be followed because the EU has only brought harm to Georgia throughout decades, assessing the EU’s activities as “agents meddling in our country which will bring Georgia towards the abyss.”
  • Pro-Russian social media accounts have been sharing an animation made by Alt Info, depicting a person representing Georgia on its path towards Western integration. The path is filled with discrediting images towards the West and Ukraine, suggesting that Georgia has to deny traditional values and Christianity on its path towards Euro-Atlantic integration. The path ultimately ends with Georgia finding itself in the middle of a war.
  • A pro-Russian propagandist who often appears on Alt Info and spreads disinformation online noted that Georgia does not need a candidate status and “gay Europe”. According to him, the real Europe existed before the 21st century but has since lost its power and dignity.
  • Another propagandist who appeared on Alt Info claimed that the EU is merely an economic bloc, thus, it should only engage with Georgia regarding trade and economy. Although Georgia-EU relations are quite long, it has brought no investments or economic development, only meddling in Georgia’s internal affairs and supporting LGBT pride. According to the propagandist, the EU is forcing its values in Georgia, which apparently only includes LGBT pride, but Georgians will always deny these values.
  • A social media profile that frequently spreads anti-Western disinformation contended that nothing good can come from the West as they have been stealing property and wealth from other countries all throughout history. The author of the post underlined that the West is trying to take away Ukraine and Georgia, which justifies Russian aggression, shifting the blame on the West.
  • Kremlin-sponsored “Sputnik-Georgia” published an article about the G20 summit in India. According to the article written by a Russian analyst, BRICS members are developing at a fast rate while the West is in decline. The article emphasizes that the decision made during the summit goes against Washington’s interests and is a victory for Russia, which shows the true balance of military, economic and political power in the world

Propaganda continues to push for restoration of Georgian-Russian relations, relieves all blame from Moscow

  • Sezoni TV broadcaster and pro-Russian propagandist Nikoloz Mzhavanadze visited Moscow and posted a video from the Red Square stating that the issue of Georgia’s territorial integrity will not be solved in Washington but in Moscow. While praising the Soviet Union and Russia, the propagandist claims that the unity of the Georgian and Russian people will be eternal, despite the attempts from Western agents to undermine it. In a separate live broadcast from Moscow, the propagandist argued that nowhere in any country are there so many monuments of Georgians and streets named after Georgians as in Russia.
  • On September 13th, with the support of the pro-Russian Eurasian Institute, Russian propagandists sent a letter to Vladimir Putin, which included praises towards the Russian President and implored him to restore relations with Georgia. According to one of the propaganda sources, the Russian President’s administration replied on September 14th, where it is stated that the “high assessment of the Head of State’s activities is appreciated.”
  • A propagandist recalled Saakashvili’s visit to Putin in 2004. Saakashvili held his first foreign visit with Putin after he became President. According to the propagandist, Putin appreciated this gesture and promised Saakashvili to assist in restoring Georgia’s territorial integrity. However, he asked “a small favour” in return from the Georgian government not to push for the removal of Russian military bases from Georgia. The propagandist claimed that Saakashvili promised to please the Russian President but eventually disregarded this request, which led to the straining of Georgian-Russian relations. According to this narrative, Saakashvili, Pashinyan, and Zelenskyy made the same mistake – if they did not throw away Vladimir Putin’s goodwill, their respective countries would flourish. Instead, they chose to become agents, marionettes of the West.
  • A propagandist posted that a domino effect is taking place in Africa, claiming that another coup occurred in the Republic of Congo, which was later refuted. The propagandist argued that Western colonialism is ending due to confrontation with Russia and sooner or later it will end in Georgia as well, liberating it from Western agents.
  • According to an article published on the pro-Russian website “GeWorld”, Russia’s “special military operation” and its activities in Africa is a battle against the West’s neo-colonialism. Russia, like the USSR in the 20th century, is the leader in liberating the world from the Western neo-colonial system. Therefore, documenting the world-historical significance of the “special military operation” and spreading this knowledge around the world should be a major priority for the humanitarian scientific community and the media.

Propaganda blames the US, collective West for sparking conflicts in Ukraine, the Caucasus

  • A social media account that often spreads anti-Wester, pro-Russian disinformation posted US Senator Mitt Romney’s quote, where he talks about the reasons why the US should continue supporting Ukraine – “We’re using about five per cent of that to help Ukraine. My goodness, to defend freedom and to decimate the Russian military – a country with 1,500 nuclear weapons aimed at us, strikes me as an extraordinarily wise investment and not by any means something we can’t afford.” The propagandist claims that this is evidence that the US is using Ukraine as cannon fodder and had plans to do the same in Georgia.
  • Another social media account claimed that the US has a plan to spark a conflict in Armenia and that Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is an agent of the US. The propagandist claimed that without Russia, Armenia would not exist today. For the Armenian state to survive, the Armenian population must overthrow the Pashinyan government, which is to be blamed for the second Karabakh War, lost territories and thousands of dead soldiers, similar to Saakashvili. The post argues that Georgia will be next if Armenia falls, and the Caucasus will fall under Turkish rule.
  • A pro-Russian propaganda account stated that the US plan to weaken Russia is still in motion, which is why the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict was reignited. The US is not satisfied with the conflict in Ukraine and is looking to further spark conflict in Russia’s neighbourhood.
  • A different social media account spread disinformation from Russian sources about the Armenian Prime Minister’s interview with an Italian newspaper. According to the disinformation, Prime Minister Pashinyan, who is an agent of George Soros, said that “the Russians abandoned the Armenians in Akhaltsikhe, and the Armenian population was completely vulnerable to the chauvinist Georgians." The quote, of course, turned out to be false. Additionally, the same account claimed that a high-ranking NATO official called on Armenia to join NATO, portraying the situation as if Western “meddling” is the cause of the tense situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
  • A propaganda source referred to the statement made by the State Security Service about alleged plans to overthrow the government and cause destabilisation in the country, stating that all of the destabilisation that occurs in the world is planned in the US.