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Georgian Government as a Conduit for Russian Propaganda 

By Ia Asatiani, Mariam Kachkachashvili, and Natia Mikheladze

“Ukraine could not avoid the war” – this narrative is voiced by the Ria Novosti, the media promoting Russian propaganda, pro-Russian “Alt-info,” “Georgian Dream,” and the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili.

“From this war, which, unfortunately, could not be contained and avoided, Ukraine as a state, its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the Ukrainian people, soldiers will suffer the most,” – said Gharibashvili on the second day of Russias’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Before that, at the beginning of the war, during the “Alt-Info” special broadcast, Zurab Makharadze said: “There was a moment when Ukrainians could have avoided this. For this giving the Russians the requested legal guarantees not joining NATO was necessary.”

Before this statement, the articles with the same opinion were published on “ria.ru,” “lenta.ru,” and “kp.ru,” stating that Zelensky could have avoided the conflict. Russian pages have been publishing such articles since 21 February.

On February 24, Komsolovskaya Pravda titled the article: “Zelensky could not bring the situation to a confrontation, but London insisted on it.”

It turns out that in Georgia, they have successfully copied the message of the Kremlin’s panegyrist media, which only promotes Russian Propaganda.

Since the first day of the invasion of Ukraine, Russian propaganda has been on fire echoed by the Georgian party.  We should not leave this case behind because, in this war, information is the war weapon, together with the ammunition. And the frontline crosses our country and the whole Post Soviet space.

altinfo kremli
Alt-Info’s team in Moscow

Therefore, we decided to analyze the role of the Georgian government and its side in the fight against “informational war.”  For five months, We have been observing the statements of government officials, supporters of the ruling party, politicians who allegedly left the “Georgian Dream,” trolls and bots on social media, and “Alt-Info” members – the main voices of the Russian propaganda. 

It turned out that both the content and the pathos of the messages related to the war in Ukraine have been repeated in the same way in Georgia and Russia. “IFact” studied five main messages that have been widespread during the last ten months in the same way here and in the occupant country.

“Sanctions do not work.”

“Let’s say directly that sanctions are not an effective tool,” stated Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili on 28 February.  This happened when the whole world agreed and started posing restrictions on Russia one after another. The Kremlin and its propagandists only announced the ineffectiveness of sanctions.

“No one can stop anything with sanctions. Sanctions are calculated, [in Russia] they are aware of the outcome, which is why they have made such decisions deliberately. They knew what could have followed by all these tensions, which is why the conscious decision was made,” – said Shota Martkinenko during the “Alt -info” broadcast on 24 February.

It is easy to guess where these statements come from. The former and current Presidents of Russia made similar statements before that.

“One way or another, we were ready for what is happening now around sanctions,” – responded Vladimir Putin on 24 February.

“They threaten us with harsh sanctions; I don’t know what it means. Obama also imposed sanctions on us, which were supposed to destroy the Russian economy. Where is Obama now? As they say, retired. However, our economy is alive and developing,” – stated Dmitry Medvedev, the former president of Russia, on 27 January.

Russia welcomed Georgia’s decision not to join sanctions. “Friends, Georgia has recovered!” – this is how the editor-in-chief of the Russian propaganda media “Russia Today,” Margarita Simonyan responded to this news on “Twitter” on 25 February.

Five months later, the founder of “Alt-Info,” Konstantine Morgoshia, also mentioned why Russia likes the current government of Georgia because of its restraint from sanctions.

Apparently, this message of propaganda did not touch the ground. In March, 70% of the Georgian population believed in the effectiveness of sanctions against Russia. Economists also confirmed with us that this punishment would have its effects.

“These sanctions will harm Russia both in the long and short term. In reality, Russia is just a small Soviet Union with relatively free market relations. The Kremlin’s reckless politics in Ukraine has put itself in a horrible position. There is a high chance of the Kremlin’s collapse in case of a lack of finances,” – says economist Mate Gardava.

“In winter Europe will freeze.”

We have been hearing from Georgian authorities, Russia, and its satellite media that the Western world will weaken its support to Ukraine after the winter, and its main concern will be heating. This message was voiced in the occupier country, followed by the Georgian part later. 

“When November comes, and Europeans will get a bit cold on their butts when some governors will freeze and will not be able to turn on gas (heating), and when friends are not able to get the shower together… then they will tell Zelensky – everything was great, we will now nominate you for a Nobel Prize. You lost the war but won the Eurovision,” said “Alt-Info” founder Konstantine Morgoshia on 19 July. At the end of October, Morgoshia moved to Russia.

“By the end of the month, I am moving to the Russian Federation to run my business. To be clear, I’m moving my business, not running anywhere,” stated Morgoshia on 5 October.

“Winter will be harsh” – this was the video’s title uploaded and published on several Youtube channels. The video describes how “Gazprom” stopped the gas supply and how the Europeans froze.

Russian media followed the steps of “Gazprom.” Google shows dozens of articles and stories about how Europeans started saving money, how the escalators were turned down, and Europeans could not pay utility fees and play TV lotteries to cover expenses. Due to gas restrictions, they must consider whether to shower in hot or cold water.

At the beginning of September, the TV First Channel journalist said that even said that the French are frantically purchasing rain boots to stay warm in the winter, which the “Kind Russia again supplies.”

At the end of September, Irakli Gharibashvili started voicing the same scenario: “Now in Europe, the conversation is not around the economic growth and creation of new jobs, but how to warm up its citizens. I am not exaggerating; this is the direct concern of some European governments, the concern of many.”

The freezing of Europe and the weakening of Ukraine are just a part of Russian propaganda. Winter is already here; however, instead of being weak, Ukraine is moving forward by actively attacking Russia. Western countries keep their citizens warm, and Ukrainians by sending generators.  

 “No one can stop Russia.”

Since February, we have been forced to trust the myths that the Russian army was invincible, Ukraine could not oppose it, and the war could be over in a week at most. This was another message uniting Georgian and Russian propaganda.

On February 28, Prime Minister Gharibashvili also started talking about the invincibility of Russians: “A huge war is taking place in Europe today. A war is going on in the largest country in Europe, and the capital of Ukraine is being shelled. Today we see that there is no one to stop it.”

“European military experts say that they gave all kinds of ammunition to Ukraine; they have a great army. However, it is impossible to defeat Russia because of such high-level officers and instructions,” – stated the leader of “Alt-info” Konstantine Morgoshia, in July.

We have also heard from “Alt-info” that Russia would put the war to an end in a week with its victory.

Three days before the start of the war “Ria Novosti” published an article about the new world order, the fall of Kyiv, and the great victory of Russia. The material was published in the morning but was deleted soon.

“War has been declared; something tells me real hell is waiting for Kyiv. It will be defeated as quickly and mercilessly as possible,” Russian blogger and propagandist Sergey Mardan posted in his Telegram chat on 27 February.

After Ukraine and its people, resilience and resistance were seen by the world, Russian propagandists changed their agenda. Even the Russian Public Broadcaster Margarita Simonyan stopped talking about the invincibility of Putin’s army. You will be surprised, but the tone of the “Alt-Info” and its TV presenters changed too.

“The U.S. goal is to weaken its geopolitical rival. The geopolitical rival is weakened by someone else, by the hand of the Ukrainian soldier. It would be ideal if the Georgian soldier could do the same,” – said Giorgi Kardava, one of the “Alt-Info” founders, on 17 July.

 “The West drags us into the war.”

After the myths of the invincibility of the Russian army did not work out, a new message of propaganda was created. As if the West wants to open a front line in other countries, to be concise, to drag us into the war. This version has been widespread in different countries, including Georgia, Moldova, Hungary, Belarus, Italy, Greece, and Serbia.

Researchers from 13 organizations (the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Georgia, Ukraine, Poland) from May to October investigated messages spreading disinformation in the Baltic states, Poland, Belarus, Georgia, Slovakia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, North Macedonia, and Bulgaria. According to their report, the version about “being drawn into the war” was the most often voiced in Belarus and then in Georgia.

The members of the Georgian government credited themselves as if peace in Georgia is their achievement, and we have to be thankful that Tbilisi is not shelled as well. This message was also reflected in the New Year’s slogan around the Christmas tree in the city’s central square: “Tbilisi – City of Peace.”

“Despite many attempts, provocations, and direct calls, our team avoided the biggest danger that could happen to our people and our country, which is war,” said Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili on 29 July.

The Executive Secretary of the “Georgian Dream,” Irakli Kobakhidze, said the same in March. “It is obvious that there is a coordinated attempt to drag Georgia into a military conflict, which we will not allow.”

At the end of June, “Georgian Dream” was left by three MPs: Dimitri Khundadze, Sozar Subari, and Mikheil Kavelashvili, who seemed to have rebelled but not really.  Later, others also joined them, and in August, a new party, “People’s Power,” was founded. It soon became clear that this separation was just an act. They did not go against the “Georgian Dream.”  Their statements show that they have left the party to criticize the West more openly and harshly, blaming the U.S. Embassy for being willing to open the second front in Georgia.

“The West loses the war in Ukraine at this stage – I doubt that Georgia may even be a victim of a certain political game,” stated Dimitri Khundadze during “Palitranews” broadcast on 13 July.

 At different times we heard from “Alt-Info” that the West aims to create a fire arc around Russia and start a war with someone else’s involvement. As they say, the August War was the result of this too.  

“The more centers of tension appear near the Russian border, the more worth it for them. (The U.S.) Russia has to react. If the war breaks out in Georgia, Central Asia, and Belarus, Russia will have to react to this and have to orient additional troops and spend equipment and money. What is our task? Are we cannon fodder?” – said Giorgi Kardava on 8 July during the broadcast of propaganda media “Season.”

Researchers of hybrid war say that the links between “Alt-info” and the government are apparent.

“I would be very surprised if two the same statements came into the minds of two different groups and both were anti-Ukrainian,” – says Davit Dzidzishvili. He has been researching the ongoing hybrid war in Georgia for the seventh year. 

“Government statements regarding the war in Ukraine complement and give legitimacy to groups claiming for years that the West causes bad for Georgia. In case of the level of damage caused by the spread of disinformation by the government and its influence can not be compared to the damage of openly pro-Russian groups, even “Alt-Info,” says Mariam Tsitsikashvili, researcher of “Reforms Associates.

Another analyst of hybrid war Giorgi Butikashvili explains that the current Government of Georgia is the same, which could work best for Russia.  

[Zurab] Makharadze asked Dugin in an interview with “Alt-Info” in 2008, you said that you would march to Tbilisi with tanks. Dugin replied that it was directed against liberal groups. He added that if Russia had taken Tbilisi in 2008, Georgia would have had such a government as it has right now.”

The representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Denis Gonchar, said in December that the growth of Georgia’s economy is the result of a non-hostile attitude towards Russia. He added that if we continue moving forward, they will “reward us” by canceling the visa regime and restoring direct flights.

Disinformation spreaders

Apart from using these groups, they try to spread the pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian narratives in social media with the help of the well-known Russian method: trolls, bots, and so-called useful Idiots. These accounts create a different reality on social media by manipulating people’s minds.

 “IFact” studied 75 authors that spread anti-Ukrainian messages on the social media pages of TV outlets (mostly, fake accounts can be found here). These accounts have been actively engaged in anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian propaganda since the beginning of the war. Twenty-eight of them turned out to be trolls or accounts hiding their identity. Twenty-two were “Georgian Dream” activists, who, cursing Ukraine and supporting Russia shared government-related news or praised them. The remaining 25 accounts support “Alt-Info” or spread its ideology.

While analyzing accounts, we identified two main groups sharing anti-Ukraininan and pro-Russian messages. One group who said that Ukraine and the West dragged us into the war cursed Ukrainian high officials and praised and shared statements of the “Georgian Dream,” especially speeches of Irakli Gharibashvili, and named the opposition as a party that wants us to get involved in the war.  

An example is a Chiatura City Hall staff member, Anna Gvelesiani. “For the attention of those who jest regarding opening a second front. It is time to face reality. Ukrainian high-ranking officials insist on this. The leaders of the National Movement voice this,” wrote Gvelesiani responding to Irakli Kobakhidze’s statement published by “Imedi” TV outlet.

Gabi Kamaev with Irakli Kobakhidze

Another example is the supporter of “Dream” Gabi Kamaev, publishing a photo of Gharibashvili with the following words: “You pray for Zelensky, but I prefer this man with his Georgian heart. And there are so many of us who think the same way as me.” Kamaev actively attends party meetings, publishes photos taken at different offices of the “Georgian Dream” on social media, and takes photos with the party members, with Irakli Kobakhidze and Dimitri Samkharadze.

Another supporter of the ruler party is Thomas Tamaz Bolkvadze. He writes: “Who even asks you about the end of the war – you clown? You and old Joe are in big trouble,” – In parallel, he publishes the photos of Bidzina Ivanishvili and shares the news about the “Georgian Dream.”

The second group mainly comprises the “Alt-Info” supporters. They talk about the new world order and conspiracy theories. In their opinion, this war is not between Russia and Ukraine but the war of Zelensky and the U.S. against Russia. They try to make people believe that Russia had no choice but to start the war. They planned to destroy Russia, and it had to pay back. “Alt-info” group supports Russia and focuses on its importance of victory.

Who works and why in the Russian disinformation services?

“iFact” tried to get an answer to questions – Why the “Georgian Dream” needs to spread anti-Ukrainin rhetoric? During the conversations with researchers, several reasons were identified.

Hybrid war researchers Mariam Tsitsikashvili and Davit Dzidzishvili think the ruling party’s goal is to prolong its stay in power. Therefore, it creates a “threat” from the Western world, and it himself wears the mantle of the main savior. To extend its power, the party tries not to go against Russia.

According to researchers, in the end, the government’s actions undermine the country’s national interests and harm the future of Georgian citizens. But the Georgian government protects Russia’s interests, which expects countries around to “be stagnant, not having democratic institutions, be abandoned and dependent on Russia.”

“In recent years, holding the government at all costs has become a priority of the “Georgian Dream.” When keeping the power is done at all costs – discrediting and declaring as enemies of strategic partners, helping Georgia to appear on the world map and become the country… it can be no less a tragedy than if someone from Russia calls Irakli Kobakhidze,” said the “Reforms Association” Researcher Mariam Tsitsikashvili.

Davit Dzidzishvili has the same opinion. According to him, “our government directly tries to be as close as possible to Russia and Russian approaches, which keeps them in power.”

თუ გსურთ, გავაგრძელოთ რუსული პროპაგანდის საკითხების კვლევა, მაშინ დააფინანსეთ "აი, ფაქტი"
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