Although a potential vote catcher, Mikheil Saakashvili said he had deliberately avoided speaking about Russia during his re-election campaign.
“I hope we will be able to resume dialogue [with Russia] to normalize ties,” Saakashvili said on a Rustavi 2 TV talk-show on January 8. “You may notice that during my election campaign I never actually spoke about Russia – even though we have many problems [with Russia] – I refused to use that card, knowing even that it could have been a major vote catcher. Why? Because it was the responsible thing to do; it is also a sensitive issue for them [the Russians], as Georgia is a very important country for Russia… We will invite the Russian president [Vladimir Putin] to the inauguration and we will try to start relations from a blank page; it is our duty to build these relations and to, at least, remove hindering factors in our relations.”
Saakashvili's conciliatory remarks were in marked contrast to his position following the police dispersal of anti-government demonstrators in Tbilisi on Novemebr 7. Saakashvili then accused Russia of masterminding the unrest and expelled three Russian diplomats from Georgia. “We have incontrovertible evidence that these people played a major role in [recent developments in Georgia]. It was planned there [Russia], financed from there and implemented through the help of their friendly oligarch [Badri Patarkatsishvili],” Saakashvili said on November 7.