Georgia’s national security agency claims it has discovered a Ukrainian-backed plot to overthrow the country’s increasingly pro-Russian government, just weeks before a highly anticipated verdict on its long-standing application to join the EU.
In a briefing on Monday, Bacha Mgeladze, deputy director of the counterterrorism unit of Georgia’s State Security Service, alleged that “conspirators are preparing to overthrow the state” on the basis that Brussels will issue a negative opinion on its membership bid as part of the bloc’s enlargement plans in October.
While Mgeladze provided no evidence to support the explosive assertions, he named a number of senior opposition politicians tied to jailed former President Mikheil Saakashvili who he claimed were behind the plot, as well as Kyiv’s “deputy head of military intelligence.” According to Mgeladze, volunteers from the Georgian Legion currently fighting against Russia in Ukraine would help orchestrate the “Euromaidan,” likening it to Ukraine’s own 2014 revolution that put the country on the path to European integration.
“These coup allegations are an absurd attempt by the [ruling] Georgian Dream party to create the preconditions necessary to allow further arrests and harassment of political opponents ahead of next year’s elections in the country,” David Kezerashvili, an opposition politician who served as Saakashvili’s defense minister during Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, told POLITICO.
“The decision to name key officials in President Zelenskyy’s military as coup leaders will undoubtedly deepen the rift which already exists between the two governments, and confirm widely held suspicions that the current Georgian government is quickly backsliding into the grip of the Kremlin.”
The unfounded assertions are just the latest in a string of acrimonious rows between Georgia and the EU. Just weeks ago, the government said it would begin impeachment proceedings against the South Caucasus nation’s own president over her friendly working visits to European states, while Western diplomats slammed the failure to provide security for an LGBTQ+ event in the capital, Tbilisi, over the summer.
Enshrined in Georgia’s constitution is an ambition to join both the EU and NATO. But, amid concerns the populist Georgian Dream party is backsliding on human rights and civil liberties, Brussels last year passed the country over for candidate status, while granting that same status to both Ukraine and Moldova. Instead, the bloc presented a list of 12 key reforms that Georgia would have to undertake.
Earlier this month, on a visit to Tbilisi, the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said that “the work undertaken by Georgia has been acknowledged, but additional efforts are required. There’s little time left until these important decisions for Georgia’s future are made, this is why we strongly encourage the Georgian authorities to seize this opportunity.”
Bidzina Ivanishvili, the oligarch and former prime minister whose estimated net worth accounts for up to half of the country’s GDP, “appears to be largely responsible” for Georgia’s pro-Moscow pivot since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, a report from the European Council on Foreign Relations claims. Despite a fifth of Georgian territory being under the control of the Kremlin’s forces and their proxies in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, it has become a key hub for sanctions-busting parallel exports to Russia.