A written statement by ex-defense minister and co-founder of the opposition Georgian Party, Irakli Okruashvili, saying that he would soon “stand beside my people”, further fueled speculation that he intends to return to Georgia as some opposition movements plan to launch street protest rallies.
Since 2007, when he went into opposition, Okruashvili lives in France, where he has received political asylum; in Georgia he was sentenced to 11-year prison term in absentia in March, 2008.
On May 19 Rustavi 2 TV reported that Okruashvili arrived in Moscow. The report was denied by the Georgian Party, which said Okruashvili was in Switzerland. In a separate report, Tbilisi-based Real TV, regarded to be affiliated with the authorities, in particular with the Interior Ministry, showed couple of poor quality photos purportedly shot in one of the Moscow’s airports on May 19 and reportedly showing, among crowd of passengers, Irakli Okruashvili standing next to Kote Gogelia, wealthy Georgian businessman, affiliated with the Georgian Party. The Russian newspaper, Obshchaya Gazeta, also reported, without providing source of information, on May 20, that Okruashvili was in Moscow.
Erosi Kitsmarishvili, political secretary of the Georgian Party, said on May 20, that these reports were part of media campaign against his party orchestrated by the Georgian authorities. “There is no need to comment on absurd [reports],” he said.
Meanwhile, on May 20 Irakli Okruashvili released a written statement, which is an appeal to the Georgian army praising the Georgian soldiers for their courage, blaming personally President Saakashvili for losing August, 2008 war and telling Georgian soldiers that Saakashvili “hates you so much that he uses you for only holding military parades.”
“In few days Georgian people will face Saakashvili and his government from the other side of a barricade. At that moment I will be standing beside my people,” Okruashvili said, adding that he would do it even through it might pose a risk to his life.
The Georgian Party has announced about the plans to force President Saakashvili to resign through a peaceful revolution before the end of this year. Meanwhile, a separate opposition movement, People’s Assembly, backed by ex-parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze, plans to start street rallies with the same goal from May 21. Although having same goals and tactic these two opposition groups are not cooperating because of personal confrontation between Burjanadze and some of the leaders of the Georgian Party.