The State Security Service of Georgia (SSG) has accused a senior Ukrainian official of plotting to overthrow the Black Sea nation’s government by organising mass unrest in the latest episode of escalating tensions between the ex-Soviet countries.
Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party has been accused of cooperating with the Kremlin even though Russian forces have deployed to separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia since 2008, when Moscow invaded the tiny Caucasus country.
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On Monday, the SSG said Giorgi Lortkipanidze, the deputy chief of Ukraine’s military counterintelligence who used to be Georgia’s deputy interior minister, was plotting “destabilisation aimed at a violent overthrow of the government”.
It said Georgians fighting Russian forces in Ukraine, including Mikheil Baturin, a bodyguard of Georgia’s jailed ex-President Mikhail Saakashvili and a member of Saakashvili’s inner circle, Mamuka Mamulashvili, were among the conspirators being trained near Ukraine’s border with Poland.
Ukraine has repeatedly called for Georgia to release Saakashvili, who has been a Ukrainian national since 2015 and a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Kyiv has said the Georgian authorities are “killing” the ailing politician on Kremlin orders and has demanded his transfer to a clinic abroad.
Georgia in turn has condemned what it said was “an extreme form of escalation in diplomatic relations”.
The SSG said antigovernment protests “are being planned for October and December, when the European Commission is set to publish its decision on Georgia’s EU membership application”.
It said the plot “is being carried out with the coordination and funding from a foreign country”.
Mamulashvili, the commander of the Georgian Legion armed group fighting in Ukraine, responded to the statement of the security service in an interview with Georgia’s Ambebi.ge online media outlet, saying the development seemed to be orchestrated by the Kremlin.
“Georgian Legion became a serious headache for the Russians, we caused a very serious loss. Therefore, they are embittered and try to take us in their hands,” he said. “In addition to the eight criminal cases against me, they also set monetary rewards for my murder.”
“[Georgian security service’s] attempt to accuse me of organising destabilisation proves once again that Georgian Dream receives tasks from the Kremlin,” Mamulashvili added.
He also said the accusation had no basis. Otherwise, the agency would have released the video-audio recordings, according to Mamulashvili.
The European Union recognised Georgia’s “European perspective” last year, but deferred its membership application while granting candidacy to Ukraine and Moldova.
That has led to mass antigovernment protests in Tbilisi, where the government is facing accusations of backsliding on its commitments to democracy and undermining Georgia’s EU membership bid.
Earlier in September, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said “there is still quite a bit of work to be done” by Tbilisi to be granted a formal candidate status.