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Controversy in Georgia over Soldier Who Fought and Died for Ukraine

Georgia already wants to see the old anti-Russian leader Sakashvili in chains. All the more upset with him now that he called for Georgians to go and fight in Ukraine

This is an excerpt from an article that originally appeared at The New Great Game

Dozens of Georgian citizens, many of whom come from the Pankisi Gorge, have joined ISIS following the lead of Georgian soldier turned ISIS commander Tarkhan Batirashvili, who is now known by the nom de guerre Abu Omar al-Shishani.

Batirashvili has quickly won the favor of Western media as well as the top spot on the hit list of Chechen Republic head Kadyrov.

Although Georgian media frequently reports that yet another one of Batirashvili's associates has been killed in Syria while fighting for ISIS, the Georgian government doesn't seem to care about the terrorist activities of its citizens.

But Syria is not the only country which has attracted Georgian "mercenaries" and after the recent death of a Georgian soldier in Ukraine, all hell broke loose in Tbilisi:

Controversy Erupts Over Death Of Georgian Soldier In Ukraine

The killing of a Georgian soldier in eastern Ukraine has become the source of a political dispute in Tbilisi after the Ministry of Defense issued a statement blaming the former government for the death.

The Georgian, Aleksandre Grigolashvili, died in combat in Lugansk, Ukraine, on December 19. He had joined the Georgian armed forces in 2007 and fought in Afghanistan and South Ossetia, family members said, but left service in 2008. He went to Ukraine two months ago to fight on the side of the pro-Kiev forces.

The issue of Georgians fighting in Ukraine has been a controversial one. Earlier this month former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who has emerged as one of the top supporters of the government in Kiev, said that Georgian soldiers were leaving the Georgian army to go fight in Ukraine. The assertion was strongly disputed by the current ruling Georgian Dream coalition.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili was outraged about Saakashvili's calls for Georgian soldiers to resign from the Georgian army and acquire Ukrainian citizenship to fight for the regime in Kiev.

He called the former president an enemy of Georgia and accused him of seeking "to lead Georgia into armed confrontation with Russia." Saakashvili's presence in Ukraine is a thorn in Tbilisi's side and Kiev's decision to appoint former Georgian officials to government posts has strained relations between Georgia and Ukraine further.

The Georgian authorities are still pulling out all the stops to put Saakashvili behind bars. His presidential passport was revoked last month and Georgia's chief prosecutor Giorgi Badashvili reiterated this week that the Prosecutor's Office "will spare no effort" to convince Interpol of issuing a Red Notice for Saakashvili.

Despite all that, the wanted criminal is confident of his return:

Former Georgian President promised to return to country soon

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili gave New Year's celebration for children in a presidential library in Tbilisi. Santa Claus gave them gifts and sweets.

Mikheil Saakashvili addressed the children on Skype and wish them a Happy New Year and Merry Christmas.

Children asked the former president when he arrives to Georgia.

"Very soon", Saakashvili said.

Another darling of Washington is also planning his comeback.

Former Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania is eagerly awaiting the next parliamentary elections and he lost no time in denouncing his successor Mindia Janelidze when the dispute about the killing of a Georgian soldier in Ukraine erupted.

Alasania even demanded that the people who are responsible for the controversial Defense Ministry statement "must stand trial."

Although Janelidze has picked up where Alasania left off and the Georgian government has continued its pro-Western course, some people would like to see a more aggressive policy vis-à-vis Russia.

Prime minister Garibahsvili on the other hand prefers a more pragmatic approach and he has even signaled his willingness to hold talks with the Russian leadership.

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili is also willing to meet his Russian counterpart Putin but only on the condition that the talks will be held on the restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity.

Put another way, the prospect of talks between Margvelashvili and Putin is still poor:

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