Alliance of Patriots makes several headlines over the last two weeks
In just two weeks, opposition party Alliance of Patriots of Georgia has managed to provoke political conflict in Abkhazia and face allegations of receiving funds for their campaign from Moscow.
Opposition TV station Mtavari Arkhi was first to inform about the unique visit in Abkhazia by representatives of the Georgian Parliament’s party. Arkhi claimed that two leaders of the Alliance of Patriots, vice-speaker of the Georgian Parliament Irma Inashvili and David Tarkhan-Mouravi visited separatist region secretly on August 18.
Inashvili later confirmed this information, although the MP said that she was accompanied to Abkhazia not by Tarkhan-Mouravi, but by another Alliance of Patriots MP, Giorgi Lomia.
Lasha Sakania, the aide of the Moscow-backed Abkhaz leader Aslan Bzhania, later explained that his “old friends from Russian Federation” asked him to help arrange the said visit to donate the icon of the Virgin Mary to the Ilori Church of St. George, located in eastern Abkhazia’s Ochamchire District, upon request by Davit Tarkhan-Mouravi. Sakania, who later had to resign after an outcry from local opposition, stressed that visit was “purely humanitarian, with no political agenda or consequences”.
“The Abkhaz Orthodox Church,” one of the two groups exercising factual ecclesial control in Abkhazia later refused to accept the Virgin Mary icon donated by Inashvili, noting that “such actions are unacceptable until the recognition of the Abkhaz Orthodox Church and the Abkhaz state by the Georgian Orthodox Church.”
However, Inashvili’s visit to Abkhazia did not cause discontent only among Abkhaz opposition, Georgian opposition party United National Movement (UNM) claimed that the politician’s visit had been coordinated with Russia and the “openly pro-Russian” ruling “Georgian Dream” Party.
As Caucasian Knot wrote, experts are divided in their assessment of Inashvili’s visit. Political analyst Mamuka Areshidze believes that the Irma Inashvili’s trip may lead to a drop in the rating of the “Alliance of Patriots of Georgia” Party before the upcoming parliamentary elections. On the other hand, political analyst Nika Chitadze suggests that the politician’s visit to Abkhazia can attract refugees from Abkhazia and residents of the Gali District, who worship the Ilori Church, to the side of the “Alliance of Patriots of Georgia” Party.
Meanwhile, Dossier Center, a Russian investigative project established by the prominent Kremlin critic, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, released an investigative report on August 24, claiming that Kremlin funds the election campaign of the Alliance of Patriots.
Dossier Center bases its investigation on documents lifted from the secretariat of Vladimir Chernov, General of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) of the Russian Federation, who reportedly hired Sergey Mikheev – a Kremlin-associated “election expert” – to promote the Alliance of Patriots for Georgia’s October parliamentary elections.
Mikheev had sent a USD 700,000-draft budget services of political consultants at the beginning of the year, says the report. Besides that, Alliance of Patriots reportedly handed Moscow a USD 8,430,625 budget proposal to cover the party’s campaign expenses.
Although Inashvili confirmed that the Alliance of Patriots had hired a Russian agency for the election campaign, she called allegations made by Dossier Center “absurd”.
According to the report released by Transparency International Georgia, a local watchdog, the revenues of the Alliance of Patriots in 2019 stood at GEL 1,676,618 (USD 543,000), making it the second after the ruling Georgian Dream party which received GEL 9,502,653.