GRASS Disinfo Brief 1-14 May

19 May, 2023

Georgian PM attends a CPAC, gets hailed by Orban; GD parts ways with European Socialists

The Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, participated in the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held in Budapest. During his speech, amongst other things, he said that with conservative values they “will oppose the evil that has arrived in the name of fake freedom and fake truth”, “will not allow the violence of the minority against the majority” just as they will not allow violence against the representatives of the minority, will also protect the rights of the majority, for whom the family is a union between a man and a woman, a mother is a woman, and a father is a man”. Prime Minister Garibashvili earned gratitude from Hungary’s PM Victor Orban who claimed that “[they] can learn many things from Garibashvili”, including “how a small country should manage to live in the shadow of Russia while preserving the values ​​of its own country”.

The participation of the Prime Minister from the Georgian Dream government, which had at that time a status of an observer member of the "Party of European Socialists" (PES) was not well-received in Europe. PES reacted to this development, saying that “Garibashvili CPAC intervention contravenes European and progressive values”. PES Vice President Kati Piri added that “the actions of Prime Minister Garibashvili are unacceptable and place him completely outside the values of our political family” and that “the PES already decided to evaluate the status of Georgian Dream within the party at the next meeting of the Presidency”. PES statement was met with backlash from the GD leaders, who argued that if someone thinks that national values are anti-European and pro-Russian, then the Georgian Dream itself should reconsider the relationship with such people. Eventually, GD announced that they were leaving PES before PES could make any decision. As a reason of the move, Chairman of Georgian Dream, Irakli Kobakhidze, claimed that they “have been continuously monitoring the ideological transformation of the "European Socialist Party” which “over the past years has increasingly moved away from the classical social-democratic ideology and moved to a pseudo-liberal platform”, and “this kind of ideological transformation of the "Socialist Party of Europe" is unacceptable to us and incompatible with the values ​​and visions of our party, as well as the Georgian society”.

Georgian Dream-affiliated People’s Power, notorious for formally initiating Russian-style “foreign agents” bill, stated: “the current trends give us reason to assume that when the issue of relevant decision-making is on the agenda, we can be accepted in Europe not by traditions, but only by condemning traditions and traditional values”. Anti-Western group concluded: “the government is doing everything to get the candidate status, for which the 12 points defined by the European Commission are meticulously fulfilled. However, we believe that when we talk about the European integration of Georgia, we should have our own conditions and we should connect these conditions to the traditional values ​​of Georgian society and state sovereignty. Therefore, together with the society, we should start a discussion to clarify what conditions we demand from the European Union on the path of European integration of Georgia. If we do not set these conditions, we will not be able to protect sovereignty, traditional values, or peace in our country”.

Fearmongering by the “second front” continues:

  • According to the Mayor of Tbilisi and GD’s General Secretary, Kakha Kaladze, the refusal Georgia to be granted candidate status in 2022, despite Georgia deserving it ahead of Ukraine and Moldova, was a political decision the reasons of which was very well understood by the public. According to him, the government of Georgia is a problem for them [likely referring to the EU] because it is not joining sanctions, is not starting a war and opening a second front in Georgia. He added that Georgia will fulfill everything (12 priorities) to achieve the candidate status but the decision is theirs. “If they give it to us, we will be happy, if they do not give it to us, that will not a problem either” – said Kaladze.
  • Georgian Dream MP Rati Ionatamishvili claimed that messages are coming directly from the European Union, especially from the "Party of European Socialists" that a conservative party has nothing to do with Europe, but "no one has said clearly what they want from us, except war".
  • Davyd Arakhamia, faction leader of Ukraine’s "Servant of the People" party, was also accused by GD leaders of interfering in Georgia’s internal affairs and development of violent revolutionary scenarios in Georgia in order to bring neo-fascist forces in power, after he claimed that government will be changed in Georgia in the next elections.

GD and MEPs at odds, again:

Attacks on MEPs with a particular focus on Viola Von Cramon [Greens/European Free Alliance MEP] has continued. The statement published on Twitter by MEP Viola von Cramon stated that “If the EU will grant candidate status to Georgia then it’s NOT because government & ruling party implemented all the priorities the EU had given to Georgia but because the Georgian people deserve it and the geopolitical logic demands it.” This alarmed GD MPs and sparked a wave of comments and propaganda against her:

  • Georgian Dream MP Irakli Zarqua told journalists that Viola is a paid lobbyist (of the UNM) and a person who does harm. He added that she is not alone and “there are [Anna] Fotyga [ECR MEP], [Andrius] Kubilius [EPP MEP], and many others, who are "paid lobbyists", friends of a particular party, and not friends of the Georgian people or Georgia in general.
  • Kakha Kaladze ironically stated that he does not rule out to see Viola von Cramon in Tbilisi with a Molotov cocktail in her hands or the opposition to nominate any MEP as their candidate in any district in 2024.
  • Concurrently, anti-Western activist and pro-Russian Alt-Info’s anchor Aleksandre Falavandishvili asserted the actions of Viola von Cramon [support of rallies and a person detained on rallies] means that "the West directly supports violence [in Georgia]: the storming of the parliament, the burning of our policemen, and [that] the extreme form of radicalism or extremism are directly and openly supported".

Russia scraps visa requirements for Georgians and resumes direct flights, reactions in the pro-Russian information ecosystem

The decision was hailed by all of the pro-Russian actors and Russia was displayed in a very positive manner. Apart from the general triumphant tone, some propaganda messages addressed the sentiments in Georgian society that were skeptical of or against Russia’s decision:

  • Alt-Info claimed that Russia’s decision is pro-Georgian and it presented Georgia an opportunity to peacefully rebuild relations with Russia and peacefully return occupied regions which would then translate into economic strength, as well. Alt-Info’s guest clergyman added that solving relations with Russia would result in economic strength, a strong market opening up for Georgia and also demographic strength, and the ability to raise the future generation with Christian moral unlike the current situation in the schools and universities. Other pro-Russian actors also named closer relations with Russia as a solution to restoring territorial integrity.
  • Alt-Info’s guest priest claimed that Russia’s decision to remove visa requirements to Georgia is not in the interests of the liberal West because if Georgia will solve its relations with Russia, then the West will no longer be able to use Georgian boys to go to die in the war against Russia.
  • According to the pro-Russian media Sezoni TV, provocations and hysteria surrounding Russia’s decisions was started by the UNM bandits, “liberast” (a favourite word of Georgian propagandists to describe liberal pro-Western groups; it is imported from Russia and is a mix of "liberal" and "pederast") media and Western agents in order to ignite fire and orchestrate new mass rallies and revenge on Russian tourists in Georgia that are portrayed as diversionists even by the US ambassador in Georgia – the whole goal of this operation is to trigger ethnic violence.
  • Additional demand of pro-Russian sources after resuming direct flights with Russia and removing visa requirements was restoration of diplomatic relations with Russia which has been cut after 2008 August war.
  • Pro-Russian anchor voiced a conspiracy that the US has bombed Tbilisi in 1992 with the hands of Russia as back then the US controlled Russia via Boris Yeltsin, and concluded that the only true guarantor of peace and territorial integrity for Georgia is Russia.
  • Pro-Russian foreign policy was disseminated with the arguments of Russia’s inevitable victory over Ukraine due to its superior nuclear arsenal and NATO’s refusal to grant Georgia security guarantees.
  • Russia and Putin was also portrayed as Georgia’s saviour in 2008 when [after attacking Georgia and occupying two of its regions] did not allow Erdogan to annex Georgia’s regions of Adjara and Guria.

9 May Victory Day celebrations – a symbol of Russia’s historic revisionism propaganda:

  • Pro-Russian groups organised various events to celebrate the day – held gatherings and exhibitions, conferences, dedicated articles, TV shows, etc. They hailed the USSR, Stalin, demanded pro-Russian foreign policy from the government, denounced neoliberal fascists, and expressed hopes that Russia and Georgia will celebrate May 9 Victory Day together in 2024.
  • TV Sezoni’s pro-Russian anchor stated that gay ambassador of the EU to Georgia declared May 9 as Europe Day – which is unacceptable for him and hence, verbally insulted the ambassador. He claimed that May 9 is a day of victory over fascism, not a day of Europe and people fighting against everything linked to this [Victory] day do this because they themselves are ideologists of fascism and leaders of modern Europe are fascists themselves.
  • Alt-Info stated that those calling to celebrate Victory Day on May 8 are the same people who call many historical truths fakes and who call for Georgia to open a second front. Alt-Info’s pundit also criticised the messages of the EU ambassador on the Europe day, claiming that 1) while he was speaking of peace but they call us to join the war, 2) he has supported Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty but is not doing anything to help Georgia in regards to territorial integrity and has destroyed Georgia’s sovereignty by pressuring Georgian government every time it wants to take independent decisions. Propagandist emphasised that the EU is demanding from Georgia to join the war.
  • According to the pro-Russian media, Western agents and the US slaves in Georgia are abusing our ancestors in their graves. Propaganda stated that those in favour of celebrating Victory Day on May 8 instead of May 9 are the voicers of the US and former CIA Director Dulles, aimed at diminishing Stalin’s legacy who foiled their plans and postponed them – these plans were spreading depravity and sodomy.
  • Alt-Info claimed that opposition politicians who are calling of moving the Victory Day from May 9 to May 8 are serving the purpose of rewriting history and changing consciousness of Georgia’s future generations, making them forget their traditions, transforming Georgia into an anti-Russian geopolitical ground similar to Ukraine, making easier to be governed and used by the West as a geopolitical instrument and eventually dragging Georgia into the war.
  • Alt-Info celebrated WW2 as a victory of Georgians – Stalin and his KGB chief Beria – who saved the world and mankind from the greatest evil – hence, Georgians should be proud of him.
  • Conspiracy claimed that either the UK or the US intelligence recruited Khrushchev and all future leaders and made them to destroy the USSR.
  • England was displayed as a loser in the WW2 with the argument that Stalin managed to take all of Eastern Europe away from it.

US Ambassador once again the target of discrediting campaign:

  • The US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan attended a meeting regarding the construction of an underground parking lot,. The news was broken out as a sensation by the Georgian Dream-affiliated Imedi TV. GD leaders commented on the issue, claiming that the attendance of the ambassador on such meeting was “creating serious inconvenience”, was “really surprising” and “very strange”. Imedi TV also disseminated harsher and sarcastic comments from the government-affiliated experts (i.e. propagandists), saying that the US was interfering is absolutely every Georgia’s internal affairs, even such small cases as the construction of an underground parking lot, and another one accused Degnan of lobbying the personal business interest of certain businessman. In the same period, Imedi TV also published the comments of the member of the anti-Western People’s Power (affiliated with the GD) that accused Degnan of being an “Unteroffizier” (reminiscent of the rank in the Nazi Germany) that has a “political plantation” in Georgia full of “unskilled and useless slaves” (referring to the opposition politicians).
  • Member of the anti-Western People’s Power also blamed Degnan to be informal leader of Georgian parliamentary opposition and would be infuriated by the ineptitude of her “students”. He also accused the US of supporting the revolution in Georgia during the March protests by using the collective efforts of the US State Department, the vassals of the US – i.e. the ambassadors of the EU member states, etc., however all of it was in vain and the US will not succeed in such plan this time, as well.

Continuous Propaganda blaming the US in interfering Georgia’s sovereignty:

  • The same propaganda message that previously came from the member of the People’s Power -that Kelly Degnan has not returned to the US just yet despite her term practically coming to the end because she has one unfinished business here in Georgia – to take the salute of the gay parade in Tbilisi as she is LGBT activist herself and has participated in such parades in Europe – was voiced by pro-Russian Alt-Info, as well.
  • Alt-Info stated that the US is controlling justice system in Georgia and that explains the decision of the court regarding the July 5, 2021 case (when during a rally organised by Alt-Info and others, violent groups physically assaulted more than 50 journalists). Pro-Russian group claimed that those arrested on this case has done nothing wrong (on the contrary – saved Georgia’s honour) but are jailed because foreign-funded liberal minority – not only some NGOs but the US embassy and US ambassador, as well, which is heavily engaged in spreading LGBT propaganda in Georgia (in order to destroy Georgian national spirit) – demanded it. Alt-Info announced that they will continue to rally against any future attempt to hold the parades of propaganda and depravity and use any form necessary to fight it, including physical.
  • Alt-Info also accused the US ambassador Kelly Degnan of double standards for calling to close Alt-Info media because according to Alt-Info, she is calling for upholding media freedom and calling for closure of the media she does not like.
  • A clergyman claimed on Alt-Info that the US seeks to weaken Russia and China and the best way to do it is to stir confrontations with their neighbours. According to him, it had cost the US to conduct two revolutions in Ukraine to eventually drag Ukrainian population in the war against Russia, and it is in its interest to realise such a war in Georgia, as well.
  • Pro-Russian former military officer argued that the US is doing everything to escalate the situation in Ukraine and turn it into the wide-scale military actions and somehow make Russia to declare military action but Russian government is balancing the situation for it not to stir out of control and become declared military actions of a wider scale that might turn into the WW3. According to him, the US is transferring all the old conserved military technic to Ukraine and such sources of equipment is already almost exhausted, while Russia has ten times better tanks (likely, referring to T-14s) but is still not using them because Russia does not consider it necessary to use its technic to such scale yet. He added that there are groups within the US congress and military establishment that abstain from providing more US military aid to Ukraine because it might be captured by Russia and US military secrets will be revealed. Others also claimed that military aid sent in Ukraine was disappearing, hinting at corruption and the misuse of the aid.
  • Propaganda claimed that the drone attack on the Kremlin was the scenario of the US to accomplish three objectives – 1) determine where the red lines are for Putin, 2) Zelensky has already exhausted its role and the US wants to kill him with the hands of Russia, and 3) the US economy did not turn out as strong as perceived and cannot withstand Ukrainian war for much longer and therefore, desires to end it as soon as possible.
  • Prominent pro-Russian anchor stated that the US is interfering in Georgia’s internal politics to a such degree that they have previously appointed [Tinatin] Khidasheli as Minister of Defence and also other ministers that were not the choices of Georgian Dream. Others also argued that the US special services have exerted control on Georgian government from the 1990s and started to focus on brainwashing youth in kindergartens, schools and universities which worked and the young people protesting against Russia on Rustaveli avenue [the street in front of the Parliament] nowadays are result of the US’s decades of work.
  • According to propaganda, since the end of the Cold War, the US has created a system with its own rules where if you do not abide by the orders of the US, you are per se on the wrong side of the history and distancing yourself from the civilisation and you should be punished.
  • According to the pro-Russian media, Russia took back territories (regions of Guria, Adjara, Samtskhe-Javakheti) for Georgia and increased its population multiple times to 5.6 million, while the US occupation of Georgia has only brought destruction, famine and everything bad for Georgia.
  • Pro-Russian media stated that Georgia’s public broadcaster was full of people which are the followers of liberal-fascists LGBT propaganda and lifestyle, and therefore, the public broadcaster is spreading the propaganda of depravity in Georgia in line with the orders from the West and the US.
  • In the context of anti-US and anti-Western propaganda, it was claimed that to prohibit Georgia from having factories and strategic sectors of the economy to developed, the West have taking numerous actions, for instance the propagandist stated that Shadman-Valavi (likely referring to the former IMF official working on Georgia) was touring Kakheti [Georgia’s Eastern region famous of wine-making traditions] with a suitcase full of cash and paying Georgian farmers 2000 USD to destroy their vineyards in favour of non-traditional cultures. Another example cited by other propagandist was the accusation towards the US of organising June 20, 2019 rally against Russian MP taking place of the speaker of Georgia’s Parliament after which Putin had banned direct flights to Georgia.

Identity-related issues top disinformation against the EU:

  • The judge that took the decision on the July 5 2021 case was accused by Alt-Info to be pro-Ukrainian and pro-European (pariah for Georgian propagandists) who LGBT activist, is ready to drag Georgia into the war, bring UNM back to power and do anything just for Georgia to get the EU membership candidate status based on her profile picture frame in the social media.
  • According to Alt-Info’s respondent, independent judiciary does not exist in any state because it is always biased to a certain degree especially in the countries like Georgia. He claimed that in the last 30 years every reform of the judiciary was imposed upon Georgia by external forces, and hence, it is impossible to form an independent judiciary in this situation.
  • Two pro-Russian media disseminated the messages that the West has pressured Georgia to adopt anti-discrimination law. One additionally claimed in this context that Georgia has also joined Istanbul Convention which established gender dictatorship in Georgia – bandit feminist fascist groups are restricting men’s rights in the name of defending women’s rights – which resulted in 80% of the imprisoned men to be detained on charges of alleged violence against women.
  • In the same context, Alt-Info was furious about the statement from the Chairman of the Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, that they are not going to discuss the law that would ban LGBT propaganda. One of the leaders of Alt-Info and its affiliated Conservative Movement party, Shota Martinenko, claimed that Georgian Dream lied to the people when GD representatives voiced such law but it turned out to be another attempt to deceive people for political gain and to use it in bargaining with the West. He threatened GD to implement their promise or face the ire of the society alongside Western agents which will result in GD being more clearly announced as liars who bargain with nation’s interest. Other notorious propagandist also sounded alarms on the need of adoption of the law that will ban LGBT propaganda. Other Alt-Info’s anchors claimed that the EU obliges LGBT propaganda and therefore, Georgian society have to choose whether they want EU integration which includes LGBT propaganda and even if Georgia compromises the result will not be membership but only candidacy. One of Alt-Info’s respondents stated that EU’s 12-point plan directly obliges us to let LGBT parade be held in Tbilisi.
  • Anti-Western “expert” argued that the goal of recent frequent visits of the Western leaders in Georgia is clear – to drag Georgia into the war with Russia, but they have not succeeded so far largely thanks to the Georgian government.
  • One of Alt-Info’s respondents claimed the West labels Georgian religion, beliefs, tradition, identity and family values as violation of human rights and rights of minorities – hence, all we hear from the Western partners are anti-Georgian and anti-state, meaning that Europe and the US are fighting against Georgia’s traditions and religion. He added that the strive towards unreal integration in the Western institutions will lead to Georgia being dragged into the war.
  • Other speakers also claimed that the West (Europe and the US) is trying to pull Georgia into the war with Russia by extreme employing constant pressure, while another argued that the EU/the West might punish Georgia for not joining the war by creating unrest in Georgia, decline candidate status, cancel visa free regime and DCFTA – a possible scenario to which Georgian government has not worked out any alternatives. It was claimed that the 2008 August war was also in the interests of the West.
  • Furthermore, one of the propagandists equated the demand of the West to sanction Russia to joining the war because both will have same devastating effect on Georgia.
  • Alt-Info argued that Georgia does not need EU integration if its price is losing our national identity and values. Anchor also said that the we do not know what are the concrete points/articles of the 12 recommendations, whether it means giving up everything just for Eurointegration. Another propagandist claimed that while the goal of Eurointegration should be getting benefits, on the contrary we are adding more problems and even threats of losing our statehood.
  • 78th article of Georgia’s constitution saying that “the constitutional bodies shall take all measures within the scope of their competences to ensure the full integration of Georgia into the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization” was also target of propaganda – it was stated that this article obliges to refuse Georgian identity and adopt European laws of depravity because Europe is no longer Christian rather it is full of sodomy and is fighting against Georgian church and values.
  • According to one of Alt-Info’s anchors, the reason of not granting Georgia a candidate status by the EU was double standards and the fact that Georgia did not want to strain relations or join the war against Russia.

Propaganda says NATO needs Georgia and Ukraine as cannon fodder:

  • Pro-Russian Alt-Info claimed that Georgia will never be admitted into the NATO regardless of the efforts of the Georgian government due to NATO’s double standards. It was also stated that Georgia should not have participated in the NATO mission in Afghanistan as Georgia was only carrying out American order.
  • Alt-Info described NATO as a trap for Europe set by Anglo-Saxons to gain influence on the EU.
  • According to Alt-Info, NATO needs countries like Georgia and Ukraine as a cannon fodder and simple instruments - NATO will supply them with money and weapons and make them fight but will not intervene to defend them as would have done in case of attack on other European countries because NATO does not view us as their existential area.
  • Alt-Info’s affiliated politician claimed that the war in Ukraine started because NATO violated the agreement because NATO faked the document agreed at the time of NATO’s creation (this claim possibly refers to the sub-narrative that NATO had an agreement not to expand into the post-Soviet space, but additional vague layers of conspiracy was added to it).