GRASS Disinfo Brief – February 13 – February 19

23 February, 2024
  • Georgian Dream criticizes Munich Security Conference, Western politicians
  • War, radicalism, attacking Georgian identity on opponent’s agenda, says Georgian Dream
  • Shalva Papuashvili continues attacks on CSOs, says donors are responsible for their actions
  • Pro-Kremlin propaganda illustrates European integration as destructive for Georgian society and sovereignty
  • Pro-Kremlin propaganda says Georgia can only survive by aligning with Russia, praises Tucker Carlson for shedding light on truth in an interview with Putin
  • Propaganda portrays the US as detrimental to Georgia and the world

Georgian Dream criticizes Munich Security Conference, Western politicians

Before the Munich Security Conference kicked off on February 16th, the forum released the Munich Security Report 2024, where the founder of the Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is described as “a pro­Russian oligarch responsible for the country’s recent democratic backsliding and tilt away from the EU, against the wishes of the majority of the Georgian public”. This assessment, along with President Zourabichvili’s attendance at the conference, sparked criticism from the ruling party members, who suggested that some Western politicians are anti-Georgian, support Georgian opposition parties, and have demanded that Georgia open a second front against Russia in the past.

  • The Mayor of Tbilisi and General Secretary of the Georgian Dream, Kakha Kaladze, assessed the Munich Security Report as “filthy”, stating that “they are getting money for such statements, which are masked as democracy and lobbyism”. He claimed that the Georgian government was under great pressure and attacks to open a second front and impose sanctions against Russia. According to him, there were public statements directly ordering the Government of Georgia to do so. However, the ruling party demonstrated great perseverance and “positioned Georgia as the country’s future required”. The Mayor of the capital argued that the US’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) has shown how certain MEPs get paid to initiate resolutions aimed at smearing Georgia’s image, and the Munich Security Report is one of those cases.
  • During a panel held at the Munich Security Conference attended by President Zourabichvili, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, Radoslaw Sikorski, addressed the Georgian President, stating that “for many of us, Mikheil Saakashvili is a symbol of Georgia's modernization”. The leader of the Parliamentary majority, Mdinaradze, criticized the Polish Minister, reminding him that Saakashvili is “not a symbol of modernization, but a common criminal”. “Turns out murder, torture, rape, business racketeering, hijacking TV stations means modernization”, stated Mdinaradze sarcastically and underlined that no matter who makes such statements, they should be reminded of Saakashvili’s actions.
  • Mdinaradze also lambasted President Zourabichvili for not responding to the Polish Foreign Minister adequately. He continued by stating that Zourabichvili goes around and calmly listens to statements made by officials from the Baltic states about how we should impose sanctions on Russia, destroy the Georgian economy, and release Mikheil Saakashvili from prison. The leader of the Parliamentary majority assessed the panel within the Munich Security Conference as a “spectacle”, which Zourabichvili will use to pardon Saakashvili and justify her decision as a request of the international community.
  • Chairperson of the Parliament’s Procedural Issues and Rules Committee, Irakli Kadagishvili, stated that Zourabichvili was met with fertile ground to voice messages against Georgia at the conference. He argued that the Munich Security Report assessed Bidzina Ivanishvili as “a pro-Russian oligarch” because the Georgian opposition has no possibility of coming to power. Therefore, “their foreign lobbyist” are using every chance to feed radical powers in Georgia.
  • Vice-Speaker of the Parliament, Archil Talakvadze, assessed the Munich Security Report as “totally distorted, circulating lies and far from reality” and attributed it to the opposition paying people in the West, including certain MEPs, to portray Georgia as a pro-Russian, undemocratic country and spread false narratives. Similar to Kaladze, the Vice-Speaker referred to the FARA documents and stated that speakers, newspapers, TV stations and politicians in the European Parliament, who are distinguished by anti-Georgian rhetoric, continue to be paid. “They do everything to block Georgia's European future in order to somehow return the United National Movement to power”, stated Talakvadze.

War, radicalism, attacking Georgian identity on opponent’s agenda, says Georgian Dream

  • Chairperson of the Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili expressed disappointment in the fact that the members of Lelo, who are boycotting the Parliamentary process, were welcomed by the EU delegation in Georgia. According to Papuashvili, this sends a message that radicalism is accepted by the EU, which will encourage opposition parties to engage in even more radical actions. “I wish that our foreign partners were more clear - those who are radicalizing political processes should not be welcomed in such manner”, stated the Chairperson of the Parliament. He recalled that during the Parliamentary boycott in 2020-2021, opposition party leaders from Lelo, Strategy Builder, and Girchi were met with red carpets, which further radicalizes the political process.
  • Papuashvili also stated that the in the 2024 Parliamentary elections, the Georgian people will have to decide between war and peace; economic progress and economic collapse. According to Papuashvili, in order to ensure peace and economic progress, the Georgian people should grant Constitutional majority to the Georgian Dream.
  • Mamuka Mdinaradze, guarding Bidzina Ivanishvili’s reputation, stated that the founder of the Georgian Dream saved Georgian spirituality and identity when it was under attack from the United National Movement’s government. Ivanishvili spent more than $3 billion on philanthropy, mainly by financing the construction of churches, rehabilitation cultural heritage building, and “everything Georgian”. Meanwhile, according to Mdinaradze, the opposition is spending millions to damage Ivanishvili’s reputation.
  • Ruling party-affiliated People’s Power movement released a statement, which argues that the “Global War Party” is preparing Georgian opposition parties for the upcoming Parliamentary elections by empowering the United National Movement’s “pseudo-middle ground” divisions. The “Global War Party” is mobilizing as much votes for opposition parties as possible not because they can win the elections, but to maintain their relevance for the 2028 Parliamentary elections. As the statement claims, the “Global War Party” has put President Zourabichvili as the head of the new “pseudo-middle ground” opposition parties. However, due to her lack of popularity, this plan is doomed to fail.

Shalva Papuashvili continues attacks on CSOs, says donors are responsible in who they fund

  • Papuashvili stated that certain Georgian CSOs boycotted the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (National Platform), which engages in discussions with the Parliament of Georgia. Papuashvili says these organization left the platform due to their failure to elect their representatives to different positions within the platform. According to Papuashvili, CSOs such as ISFED and GYLA, would have had opportunity to participate in the parliamentary discussions on the implementation of the nine steps, if had not left the platform. Now it is entirely the responsibility of their donors to bring these CSOs back into the democratic process. As the Chairperson of the Parliament pointed out, when donors give funds to CSOs who cause problems for democracy in Georgia, then those donors shoulder some responsibility. “Once again, I call on the donors to do everything so that the CSOs operating with their funding give up on radicalism, return to democratic processes and participate in Georgia’s European Future”, stated Papuashvili.
  • On a different occasion, Papuashvili stated that the only ones that the upcoming Parliamentary elections need protection from are the United National Movement and “its satellite CSOs”. Papuashvili once again referred to PVT results published by ISFED after the 2020 Parliamentary elections, which according to the Chairperson of the Parliament, were “rigged, and became the basis of the United National Movement’s parliamentary boycott”. He also recalled the pro-EU protests in 2022, which in his view was an attempt by ISFED, Transparency International - Georgia, and the Open Society Foundation to overthrow the government in an undemocratic manner. Papuashvili underlined that the ruling party will examine local election monitoring organizations and their activities, especially when the transparency of their funding remains an issue.
  • Speaking about the changes in the Electoral Code, Papuashvili stated that the Venice Commission bases its recommendations on CSOs’ opinions. In turn, when asked about what type of electoral system they support, the CSOs refer to the Venice Commission’s recommendations, which creates “a vicious cycle”. Papuashvili also attacked Transparency International – Georgia, accusing it of being aligned with the opposition and wanting to hold the 2024 elections without electing a full-term Chairperson of the Central Election Commission and its two members.

Pro-Kremlin propaganda illustrates European integration as destructive for Georgian society and sovereignty

One direction of Pro-Kremlin propaganda traditionally continued to portray Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration as detrimental and accused Georgia’s Western partners of attempting to undermine and destroy Georgian society.

  • A propagandist on Alt Info’s broadcast blamed the EU and the US for Georgia’s loss of control over Abkhazia and Samachablo, and accused the West of genocide of the Georgian people. As the narrative suggested, the West provoked civil confrontations in Georgia in the 1990s, helped spread drug use in Georgian society, and is currently attempting to undermine the Georgian people by spreading LGBT propaganda.
  • An anchor on one of Alt Info’s broadcasts stated that in the 1990s the Georgian people had expectations that the West would aid Georgia. However, according to him, not only is the West not helping Georgia, it is actively creating new problems for it.
  • Another narrative shared on Alt Info once again accused the West of wanting to open a second front in Georgia against Russia. The propaganda source claimed that the West is using its agents in the government and CSOs to carry out propaganda in favor of Western interests, which ultimately aims to drag Georgia into the war.
  • Sezoni TV broadcaster and pro-Russian propagandist, Nikoloz Mzhavanadze, alleged that the West is destroying Georgia not with military weapons, but through the information war, narcotics, CSOs, and “other diversions”.
  • A guest on Alt Info claimed that the Georgian people’s money flows into Europe through local banks that have colossal interest rates. He blamed the West for high loan interest rates in Georgia, portraying it as a scheme set up by Western countries to steal money from the Georgian people.

Another strand of propaganda equated Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration to losing sovereignty, arguing that the West controls Georgia’s state institutions and internal affairs.

  • European ideology and mentality can never be complementary to that of Caucasian, a guest on Alt Info’s broadcast argued. He added that the EU and its member states are not Georgia’s partners since a partnership requires equal rights between the parties. In the case of EU-Georgia relations, he added that, the EU currently dictates requirements to Georgia regarding legislation, actions, and ideals that are not aligned with Georgia's traditional conservative values.
  • A different propaganda source claimed that the Georgian state institutions are accountable to Western institutions, and “the so-called Euro-Atlantic choice” has completely replaced the idea of a sovereign state in Georgia.
  • An anchor on Alt Info’s broadcast stated that Georgia has been governed by robbers for the past thirty years. “The robbers”, meaning Georgia’s previous and incumbent governments, received legitimization not from the Georgian people through elections, but from Brussels and Washington. As the narrative suggests, since Georgian governments are appointed by Brussels and Washington, they are to blame for the Georgian people’s economic problems.
  • A clergyman who frequently appears on Sezoni TV and Alt Info broadcasts, and was actively engaged in the EU flag-burning campaign in December, stated that Georgia is conquered by the liberal West. He bases his argument on the fact that EU flags are displayed along with Georgian flags on top of administrative buildings. Moreover, he alleged that the West is trying to “sew propaganda of perversion”, as morally depraved people are easier to control.
  • The path towards European integration and reintegration in the European family means curtailing sovereignty, another propagandist stated. This is evident from the fact that hate speech is now regulated and people are afraid to get fined because of what they say. Hate speech laws are European laws, which are determined by subjective morality and limit freedom of speech.

Pro-Kremlin sources also propagated that the EU is on the verge of collapse and will soon cease to exist as we know it.

  • Pro-Russian “GeWorld” published an interview with a prominent propagandist and a member of the “Solidarity for Peace” party, Mikheil Zghenti, where he argued that on the backdrop of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, Europe is scared and confused. The US abandoned an economically weakened Europe, and the farmer’s protests illustrate how Europeans are waking up to the fact that their governments are destroying their countries. The EU, in its current borders and demographics, will vanish in 20-30 years, and new states will take its place. Although, Eastern European countries, including Georgia, have a chance to survive if they come to their senses and align with Russia.
  • A propagandist on Alt Info stated that “rotten Europe” is counting its last days, and when the Russia-Ukraine war ends, it will cease to exist.

Pro-Kremlin propaganda says Georgia can only survive by aligning with Russia, praises Tucker Carlson for shedding light on truth in an interview with Putin

  • The host of Sezoni TV, Nikoloz Mzhavanadze claimed that establishing friendly relations with Russia and China is the only correct path for Georgia to pursue and Georgia must hold relations with Russia and China. According to him, many more jobs will be created with deepening relations with Russia, bringing economic welfare.
  • Mzhavanadze said that Kremlin officials are sympathetic towards the Georgian government’s policies and Russia is ready to put Georgia-Russia relations on a new level. Additionally, Moscow systematically attempts to integrate Georgia in the 3+3 diplomatic platform. As a response, the Georgian side is requesting the return of the occupied territories as a prerequisite to deepen relations, which according to Mzhavanadze is absurd.
  • Mzhavanadze supported the policies of Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, who signed a “Declaration on Allied Interaction” with Russia a day before Russia invaded Ukraine. According to the propagandist, Aliyev demonstrated his loyalty to Russia and, as a result, was allowed to take back control of Nagorno-Karabakh. As the Sezoni TV host argued, Georgia should follow similar policies
  • A guest on Sezoni TV, continued the traditional pro-Russian narrative that in order for Georgia to regain control over the territories occupied by Russia, it should hold dialogues with Moscow.
  • In an interview published on “GeWorld”, pro-Russian propagandist Mikheil Zhghenti claimed that Georgia must sign a peace agreement and strategic partnership agreement with Russia as soon as possible in order for Russia to take Georgian national interests in consideration.
  • Kremlin-affiliated Sputnik Georgia published an article by a Russian “analyst”, in which the author argues that the increasing quality and number of Russian drones, barrage munitions with elements of artificial intelligence, accelerates the achievement of the goals of the “military special operation” in Ukraine. Furthermore, according to the article, Russia is becoming a recognized world leader in the development, production and combat use of kamikaze drones with artificial intelligence, therefore, the hegemony of the West is dying and an equal security system is being established.
  • A social media profile that repeatedly spreads anti-Western disinformation and propaganda, assessed Tucker Carlson’s interview with Vladimir Putin and wrote that since Carlson allowed Putin to clear up his viewpoint about the war in Ukraine, the number of Putin supporters doubled in the US. This resulted in a decrease in the Democratic Party’s support among voters. The author claims that people’s attitudes will drastically change after the interview towards the US and Europe, as Carlson debunked the myths about Russia’s expansionist policies. Moreover, according to the post, the interview demonstrated how Russia does not want war and is in favor of peace.
  • Another pro-Russian social media account argued that Carlson’s interview demonstrated Russia’s readiness to stop the war and the West’s insistence on keeping it going, by providing financial and military aid to Ukraine. The social media account asserts that the interview turned public opinion in favor of Russia, stating that it won the information war.

Propaganda portrays the US as detrimental to Georgia and the world

  • A propagandist on Alt Info argued that Georgia is a colony of the US. The Parliamentary lists of political parties and the results of the elections in Georgia are determined by the US embassy, and as the propagandist said – “the Kremlin’s governance has been replaced by Washington’s governance”.
  • Another propagandist stated that the US does not care about corruption in Georgia. If it did, the country would not be in such a bad situation for thirty years. Moreover, according to the narrative, the US and other Western countries are even encouraging corruption to use it as a political tool to control Georgia.
  • Nikoloz Mzhavanadze and his guests on Sezoni TV argued that Georgia has done more for the US than vice versa. The US is in debt to Georgia; by sending soldiers to fight in Afghanistan, Georgia saved the US up to $48 billion. The propagandists did not specify what they based this number on but continued to claim that on this background, the Americans want Georgia to be grateful for a far less amount of money - $6 billion spent over thirty years, most of which was allocated to CSOs.
  • A guest on Alt Info stated that the US State Department included Alt Info in its Terrorism report so that it could order the Georgian people to shut down conservative-minded people in Georgia.
  • Referring to former President Donald Trump’s statement about how he would not protect a NATO ally if it did not contribute enough in defense spending, a propagandist on Alt info claimed that countries have to pay money to remain a partner to the US, making it an unreliable ally.
  • In his interview with “GeWorld” Mikheil Zghenti stated that the US manipulates European countries to further its own interests against Russia. Specifically, the US pressured European nations to contribute $50 billion in aid to Ukraine and sabotaged the Nord Stream pipeline, depriving Europe of affordable natural gas.