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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Tbilisi accuses Ukrainian official of plot to overthrow Georgian government

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Tbilisi has accused a senior Ukrainian official of plotting to overthrow the Georgian government by organising mass unrest in the coming months. The State Security Service of Georgia (SSG) said Giorgi Lortkipanidze, the deputy chief of Ukraine’s military counterintelligence and a former Georgian deputy interior minister, was planning “destabilisation aimed at a violent overthrow of the government”.

 The SSG claimed that Lortkipanidze had recruited Georgians fighting Russian forces in Ukraine, including a former bodyguard of Georgia’s jailed ex-president Mikhail Saakashvili and a commander of the Georgian Legion armed group, to carry out the coup. It said some of these people were undergoing training near the border between Ukraine and Poland.

 The SSG also alleged that the plotters intended to exploit anti-government protests that are expected to take place in Tbilisi in October and December, when the European Commission is set to publish its decision on Georgia’s EU membership application. It said the plot was being coordinated and funded by a foreign country, without naming it.

 Ukraine rejected the accusations as false and said it did not interfere in Georgia’s internal affairs. A spokesperson for the Ukrainian foreign ministry said Tbilisi was “trying to demonise Ukraine” for domestic reasons. The deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence also denied any involvement in the alleged coup and said he was ready to cooperate with the Georgian authorities.

 The accusations come amid strained relations between Kyiv and Tbilisi over the fate of Saakashvili, who has been a Ukrainian citizen since 2015 and a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Saakashvili is serving a six-year prison sentence in Georgia for abuse of power and embezzlement during his presidency from 2004 to 2013. He has also been convicted in absentia of other charges, including ordering an assault on a political opponent.

 Ukraine has repeatedly called for Georgia to release Saakashvili, who is suffering from health problems, and allow him to receive medical treatment abroad. Kyiv has said the Georgian authorities are “killing” the ailing politician on Kremlin orders and have violated his human rightsGeorgia has condemned what it called “an extreme form of escalation in diplomatic relations” and accused Ukraine of meddling in its judicial system .

Georgia and Ukraine are both former Soviet republics that aspire to join the EU and NATO and have faced Russian aggression in recent years. Georgia lost control of two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, after a brief war with Russia in 2008. Ukraine has been fighting pro-Russian separatists in its eastern regions since 2014, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Both countries have received political and military support from the West, but have also faced challenges in implementing democratic reforms and tackling corruption .

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