When a country crumbles at the hands of its own people, it’s a real tragedy. And when it’s at the hands of Mikhail Saakashvili — that’s just a farce
This article originally appeared in Komsomolskaya Pravda. It was translated for RI by Johanna Ganyukova
Picture the scene: Mishiko arrives at a restaurant one night (or a brothel, which ever you prefer) and is greeted by a mob of protestors, shouting all sorts of nasty words. The bouncers let him out through the back door, and send him off in a car which is then tailed by the angry mob. This is how Saakashvili’s victims of political repression sought their revenge. The movement even had a name: “The Misha Hunt”. They had a network of informants – if someone knew Saakashvili’s whereabouts they’d soon pass it on down the chain…
Although I didn’t see it with my own eyes, it’s easy to believe. I was in Georgia several months earlier, in May 2013, when they were preparing for the Presidential race – a competition dear Misha wasn’t invited to take part in. And, the main topic of conversation at the table was Saakashvili; would he be sent to jail after his term was up, or would he flee the country before then? As it turned out, he fled -with US help of course - to Ukraine. In those days he was named Peter Poroshenko’s official economic advisor. But the Georgians really wanted to see him locked up. On 17th February the Georgian Public Prosecutor announced that a demand had been sent to Kiev for his extradition. However the Kiev prosecutor’s office is delaying on whether to hand over this invaluable economic advisor to the Ukrainian President.
But do you know how it came about that Mishiko was not detained back home, and was able to free his hands for the Ukrainian economic reforms? There is an individual by the name of Bidzina Ivanishvili. He’s a Georgian oligarch, made in Russia. Several years ago he returned to his home village to take up permanent residence. He invested in the whole region; built schools, hospitals, churches and assisted theatres and students. He even became famous for his role in reforming the police service by buying the latest state-of-the-art police cars, which any visiting foreign journalist would most certainly get a ride in. And he did all this for nothing; not for fame nor glory. Incidentally, he wasn’t able to make his fortune at home as he was a member of Misha’s clan. As it was said to me: “Ivanishvili makes the bucks, and Saakashvili cuts the ribbons and talks the talk”.
So as it happens, one day the very same Ivanishvili uncovered an informant to Saakashvili amongst one of his security personnel. And he then remembered about the mysterious death of the Prime Minister Zuraba Zhvaniya, a party opponent of the President during the so-called ‘Rose Revolution’. Then he thought about the fate of another Georgian oligarch – Badri Patrikatsishvili – who died for one reason or another in London, where he was in hiding from Saakashvili. And here he was, Ivanishvili, with an annual income on a par with the yearly budget of Georgia, and a well-known politician. He founded the “Georgian Dream” party, which took under its wing ‘humilated and insulted’ journalists. He got into the media. And now he is winning parliamentary elections and will become Prime Minister. Saakashvili is becoming a symbolic figure: he is not capable of doing any more harm and yet those fighting for the freedom of political prisoners are willing to hunt him down like a rabbit.
Then towards the end of 2013, Ivanishvili literally elected his President one minute, and then announced his retirement the next. In Georgia they say that, taking the state of the economy into account, he decided that the country would be better off without him. Apparently it took him all his time and money just to ensure his personal safety. Furthermore, it was time to pay off some of the loans Saakashvili took out for renovations.
Indeed, Mishiko, on the other hand, had no plans for retirement. Now he is going to give advice on economic reform in Ukraine. To be honest, it makes no difference. The path of a former socialist country towards European integration is doomed in any case. As they say, it’s all the same faces in the European Commission and the IMF.
But, it must be said, when a country crumbles at the hands of its own people, it’s a real tragedy. And when it’s at the hands of Mikhail Saakashvili -that’s just a farce.
The only theoretical chance Ukraine has of survival would be to give him up. But can the rabbit be caught?