Russia’s PM Vladimir Putin met separately on December 21 with Nino Burjanadze, Georgia’s ex-parliamentary speaker and leader of opposition Democratic Movement-United Georgia and Zurab Nogaideli, Georgia’s ex-PM and leader of opposition Movement for Fair Georgia.
The meeting took place after Putin and two Georgian opposition figures attended a ceremony of opening World War II memorial in Moscow, which was commissioned by the Russian authorities in response to demolition of similar memorial in Kutaisi year ago.
“I want to thank you for finding time and arriving at the opening of the memorial,” he told Burjanadze in remarks for the press. “I hope you liked it [the memorial]. Actually you have also participated in selecting one of the options [models of memorial] – there were a lot of them, as you remember. I think it is successful one.”
“I very much hope that it will be a good symbolic step on the way towards finding mutually acceptable solutions to normalize our interstate relations,” Putin added.
“Thank you very much for those words, which note the significance of bilateral, normal and equal relations between Russia and Georgia. This is very important,” Burjanadze responded.
“Of course, there is a desire for this memorial to mark the beginning of restoration of normal relations – the relations, where the interests of our peoples are taken into consideration, the relations which will be favorable for both Georgian and Russian peoples, because, of course, abnormal relations do not promote either good neighborly relations, or resolution of those problems, which unfortunately exist in these relations,” she added.
At a separate meeting with Nogaideli, the Russian PM also thanked him for participation in the opening ceremony and said “tragic events” of recent years in relationship between Russia and Georgia and demolition of WW II memorial in Kutaisi were “expression of same political line” adhered by the Georgian leadership. The same “political line”, Putin said, was also observed in some other post-Soviet states.
“But I am sure, that under the pressure of common sense and public in those countries, this trend will go down to zero,” Putin said.
“Thank you very much for the monument,” Nogaideli responded. “A year ago, when you met me first time we were discussing this issue. Those were the day when the monument was demolished [in Kutaisi], resulting in death of two innocent people. A terrible tragedy of course. It was an act of vandalism and it will not go without consequences, moreover it was Saint Nicholas Day – December 19.”
“At the same time a year ago, when you raised this issue and offered to reconstruct the monument here in Moscow, some might not believed – including me – that it could have happened so soon, just year later. Thank you very much that this monument is already here in Moscow on Poklonnaya Gora.”
“I think that that this day may become a key to the future of Russian-Georgian relations; not the events of two years ago [apparently referring to the August war] and the event of last year – the demolition of the memorial [in Kutaisi], but this day will become the key to the future Russian-Georgian relations. I hope so,” Nogaideli added.
In his speech at the opening ceremony of the memorial Putin said that no one would be able to stir conflict between the Georgian and Russian people and for that reason the future “is for good-neighborly, equal and genuinely partnership relations between Russia and Georgia.”
“We are sincerely aspiring towards it,” Putin said.
He said that demolition of WW II memorial in Kutaisi a year ago was “shameful act of state vandalism”, which he said “triggered indignation throughout the world and first of all in Georgia, because the people can not stand beside those who destroy memory.”
“I am glad to welcome in Moscow our guests from Georgia – prominent politicians, public figures, our dear [WW II] veterans,” Putin said. “Russian-Georgian friendship is of huge and absolute value.”