Strategic Analysis Caucasus Brief

Monthly review (06. 11. – 03. 12. 2023)

Tomáš Baranec


 Yerevan, Armenia. Photo:

Pashinyan refused to participate in the CSTO meeting

On November 15, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that the Armenian side decided not to participate in the events under the auspices of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) for various reasons.

Pashinyan noted that the CSTO, contrary to its obligations, has not adequately responded to threats to Armenia’s security. “The Armenian society does not understand why the country’s leadership should participate in these events every time, raise security issues, and then come back with nothing,” the prime minister noted.

Pashinyan added that Armenia is diversifying its relations in the security sphere. “Now we say: well, don’t take offence at us, but we have to find alternative partners. We are looking for and finding these partners, making deals, trying to acquire weapons and military equipment,” he said. “This is our policy. And strategically, we will not announce any change in our policy until we decide to withdraw from the CSTO,” the Armenian leader concluded.

In its reaction to the development, Russia said that Pashinyan’s decision to stay away from a summit of the CSTO was the latest anti-Russian move by Armenia orchestrated by the West.

While Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan says his country has no intention of leaving the CSTO and changing its foreign policy orientation at the moment, Armenia has reduced its participation in the Russian-led bloc to a bare minimum.

“Armenia is practically not participating in the CSTO. We are not taking part in the organisation’s meetings, we are not signing on to the documents they adopt, and we have recalled our representative at the CSTO and not appointed a new one. We are effectively not members of this organisation,” a source close to Armenia’s ruling elite told Eurasianet on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, the CSTO Joint Staff Chief, Anatoly Sidorov, stressed that Armenia has not formally requested withdrawal from the organisation. “No official statements have been received from the Armenian leadership, including by the organisation. No statements on Armenia’s withdrawal from the Collective Security Treaty Organization have been made. No documents of the kind have been submitted; I have not personally seen any,” Sidorov said at a press conference in Moscow. “There is no talk in the organisation that the CSTO has lost interest in the Caucasus region or that it is going to withdraw from Armenia,” Sidorov said, adding that the leaders of the CSTO member states will find a way to solve the problems the Republic of Armenia is going through.

The EU is exploring ways to support Armenia

The EU plans to support Armenia in terms of border protection, reform efforts, and, potentially, its military modernisation. Brussels also indicated readiness to negotiate visa liberalisation for Armenian citizens.

The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council has unanimously approved the expansion of its border monitoring mission in Armenia. This development underscores the EU’s commitment to the stability and security of the region. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, announced the decision in Brussels, signalling a deeper engagement with Armenia’s authorities and strengthening its reform initiatives.

“The Council discussed how to strengthen cooperation with Armenia and support its democratically elected authorities, its resilience, its security and the continuation of reforms in the country,” Borrell stated. He emphasised the importance of the EU’s presence in the area. “We decided to beef up our mission in Armenia with more observers and more patrols in the sensitive areas of the border,” reports the Caucasus Watch.

The decision to augment the EU’s role in Armenia also includes a dialogue on visa liberalisation. “We will explore possible support for Armenia under the European Peace Facility and an option for visa liberalisation for Armenia,” Borrell added after the meeting.

Meanwhile, the EU Council of Foreign Ministers has agreed to “explore” the possibility of providing “non-lethal” support to Armenia as part of its military assistance programme.

“We have to be very much vigilant for any attempts of destabilisation of Armenia, internally and externally”, said Joseph Borrel, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, after the session. “Our message to Azerbaijan is clear: any violation of Armenia’s territorial integrity is unacceptable and will have severe consequences for the quality of our relations.”

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the decision and Borrel’s statements, which they said: “failed to make any effort to persuade Armenia to act in line with the norms and principles of international law, constitute a threat to Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty”.

If approved, the EU’s “non-lethal support” provision to Armenia would fall under the European Peace Facility (EPF), a security programme covering non-EU countries. The Council of Foreign Ministers’s discussion comes against the backdrop of Armenia’s attempt to step up military ties with the West as its relations with Moscow remain in freefall.

A few days prior, Armenia reportedly received its first batch of French armoured personnel carriers through the Georgian port city of Poti on November 14. Georgia’s Poti port administration confirmed that a “specific cargo” was delivered to Armenia via Georgia: “We would like to emphasise that in this particular case, the cargo came from the EU country – France and was directed to Armenia – a country that is not sanctioned. In addition, in the absence of clear instructions from the Georgian government and restrictions imposed by international regulators, APM Terminals Poti, a multipurpose port in Georgia and the region, lacks the opportunity to unreasonably refuse to accept cargo that is not sanctioned”.

Earlier, on November 14, the Azerbaijani website (associated with the Azerbaijani government) reported that the French military equipment intended for Armenia, namely Bastion armoured personnel carriers, was delivered through Georgia.

  • Caucasus Watch, “EU Bolsters Border Mission in Armenia, Opens Visa Liberalization Talks”,

  • Caucasus Watch, “Georgia Confirms Delivery of French Armored Vehicles to Armenia”,

  • BARSEGHYAN Arshaluys, OC Media, “EU ‘exploring’ provision of ‘non-lethal’ military aid to Armenia”,

Armenian official signals possible withdrawal from Russian-led CSTO

On November 27, Gevorg Papoyan, the Deputy Chairman of the ruling Party of the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, claimed that Armenia may leave the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

Papoyan said that the reason for this is the CSTO’s reluctance to support Armenia in the conflict with Azerbaijan. “There is a clear situation that will determine our definitive departure from the CSTO. This situation has not yet matured. But there is also an option where we would participate in those [CSTO] meetings. There is no such situation either,” he said, alluding to an effective freeze on Armenia’s participation in the alliance’s activities.

Papoyan did not specify those “situations,” Nor did he say if Pashinian’s government wants to obtain security guarantees from Western powers before officially reorienting Armenia towards the United States and the European Union.

Recently, PM Nikol Pashinyan and, after him, the Armenian Parliament Alen Simonyan Speaker also refused to participate in a recent CSTO meeting in Minsk. The leaders and officials of Belarus and Russia slammed Armenia’s stance over non-participation in the meeting and distant relations within the organisation.


Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo:


Ganja, Azerbaijan. Photo:

Azerbaijan continues to snub peace talks as US moves to boost support to Armenia

On November 16, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry put out a statement announcing the country’s decision not to attend a meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in Washington scheduled for four days later. The snub was another symptom of worsening relations between Baku and Washington following the Azerbaijani victory over de facto Nagorno Karabakh.

The immediate cause of the refusal to participate in the negotiations was largely a response to US Assistant Secretary of State James O’Brien’s testimony the previous day at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing titled “The Future of Nagorno-Karabakh.”

In his testimony, O’Brien, among other things, went on to express support for Armenia, which has been attempting a pivot away from Russia and is scrambling to accommodate the 100,000-some people displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh in September.

O’Brien also said that the US had cancelled high-level bilateral meetings and engagements with Azerbaijan (without specifying exactly when) and would keep urging Baku to “facilitate the return of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians who may wish to go back to their homes or visit cultural sites in the region, as well as restore unimpeded commercial, humanitarian, and civilian traffic to the region.”

On the day of the hearing, the US Senate also adopted a bill titled “Armenian Protection Act of 2023”. If it becomes law, the bill will suspend all military aid to Azerbaijan by repealing the Freedom Support Act Section 907 waiver authority for the Administration with respect to assistance to Azerbaijan for the years 2024 and 2025.

On that front, Azerbaijan’s diplomatic service argued that the US was repeating “the same mistake” it made in 1992 when Azerbaijan was sanctioned with this amendment, “despite being a state who faced aggression and occupation” at the hands of Armenian forces.

On November 22, the assistant to the President of Azerbaijan, Hikmet Hajiyev, stated that USAID “has no place in Azerbaijan” in response to the alleged support of the agency’s head, Samantha Power, to Armenia. “When Power was the permanent representative of the United States in the UN Security Council, she never dared to raise the issue of Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced persons,” Hajiyev stated. He accused Samantha Power of Azeri-hatred, Turk-hatred, political corruption and speculation.

Reacting to the swift deterioration in relations between both countries, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken called President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev on November 27. During the telephone conversation, President Ilham Aliyev said that the latest statements and actions taken by the US have seriously damaged Azerbaijan-US relations.

“It was emphasised that the Azerbaijani side took note of the statement about cancelling the senior-level engagements with Azerbaijan and no chance of business as usual and responded adequately. President Ilham Aliyev reminded that Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on this matter on November 16 and that Azerbaijan had, in turn, cancelled all senior-level visits from the US,” the report noted.

To normalise the relationship, Secretary Blinken has asked to allow the US Assistant Secretary of State James O’Brien to visit Azerbaijan in December. Aliyev has agreed to this proposal on the condition that after this visit, the ban on the visits of Azerbaijani high-level officials to the United States will be lifted. Secretary Blinken has accepted that.

  • ISAYEV Heydar,, „Azerbaijan continues to snub peace talks as US moves to boost support to Armenia”,
  •, “USAID no longer has a place in Azerbaijan: Hikmet Hajiyev”,
  • Caucasus Watch, “US-Azerbaijan Relations: Blinken’s Call Opens Doors for Reconciliation”,
Journalists arrested as state media signal hunt for “US spies”

In the second half of November, the Azerbaijani security forces launched a campaign that may eliminate the last remnants of independent media in the country.

On November 20, Azerbaijani police arrested two top managers of an independent news outlet, Abzas Media, known for investigating corruption. Ulvi Hasanli, the director and co-founder of Abzas Media, was arrested on his way to Baku airport for an international flight. Several hours later, Hasanli and his lawyer, Zibeyda Sadigova, were taken to Abzas’ office, and police raided the facility in their presence.

According to Abzas, police claimed to have found 40,000 EUR in the office. The outlet released a voice-recorded statement by Hasanli, who said that the police had planted the cash and that he had been beaten both during his detention and later while in police custody. In his audio-recorded remarks, Hasanli also said police asked him why Abzas does not glorify Azerbaijan’s military takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh and focuses on corruption instead.

Abzas’ editor-in-chief, Sevinj Vagifgizi, was detained the following day. Both Hasanli and Vagifgizi have been charged with smuggling and face possible prison sentences of 7-12 years, according to Abzas. According to Eurasinet, Hasanli has been politically active in Azerbaijan since the mid-2000s, chairing several youth organisations. He co-founded Abzas Media in 2016. Abzas focuses mainly on covering corruption and human rights violations in Azerbaijan—recent investigations unearthed money laundering schemes by high-ranking officials in and abroad.

On November 27, the Sabail District Police Department of Baku detained Aziz Orujov, the head of the oppositional “Kanal 13” Internet TV. Before he was detained, the police searched his house and office. Orujov is a suspect under Article 188.2 of the Criminal Code (violation of the right to ownership, use, or lease of land – carrying out arbitrary construction or installation works on a plot of land without a lease right).

According to lawyer Bahruz Bayramov, Orujov did not accept the charge and said that the charge was aimed at restricting journalistic activity. “Aziz said that almost none of the houses in ‘Area 20’ have documents. There are thousands of undocumented homes out there. Should a criminal case be brought against all of them?” the lawyer mentioned. On November 28, the Sabail District Court of Baku decided to sentence Aziz Orujov to three months of pre-trial detention as a preventive measure.

The following day, Azerbaijan accused the US, France, and Germany of interfering in the country’s internal affairs by funding Abzas Media. Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned French Ambassador Anne Boillon, German Ambassador Ralf Horlemann, and acting US Ambassador Guevara to discuss their countries’ funding of Abzas Media.

According to their statement, during the meetings, the ministry accused the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), US non-profit organisation Freedom Now, and the Danish New Democracy Fund of “illegally transferring financial resources to the territory of Azerbaijan, violating the rules of granting grants, and made illegal contributions to the activities of Abzas Media”.

In response to the summons, the US Embassy in Azerbaijan told Voice of America on November 29 that the accusations against USAID were “false and fundamentally mischaracterise the purpose of our aid”.

On November 30, Azerbaijani police arrested journalist Nargiz Absalamova of Abzas Media on charges of smuggling foreign currency. Absalamova was arrested after she reported to the police for questioning. An employee of the Press Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, İbrahim Amiraslanli, later confirmed Absalamova’s detention to the pro-government news agency APA, adding that an investigation is underway.

Khadija Ismayil, an Azerbaijani investigative journalist, noted that the Azerbaijani government’s criticism of the Western embassies indicated its current allegiances. “Countries that declare the West as enemies are usually in the arms of Russia. Until now, at least, they talked about a balanced foreign policy; now, the rhetoric of the Azerbaijani leadership is no different from that of Lukashenka”, said Ismayil.

First Karabakh Armenian convicted in Azerbaijan

The Baku Military Court has sentenced Vagif Khachatryan 68, an ethnic Armenian from de facto Nagorno-Karabakh, to 15 years in prison for war crimes committed during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War.

Khachatryan was accused of taking part in a massacre of Azerbaijani civilians in the village of Meshali, near Khojali, charges he denied, reports OC Media. Khachatryan is thus the first of a handful of Karabakh Armenians in Azerbaijani detention to be convicted. He is the only one who is not a former high-ranking official of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

He was also the first to be arrested. Azerbaijani border guards detained Khachaturyan in July at the newly constructed Lachin checkpoint. At that time, Nagorno-Karabakh was still inhabited by Armenians and was under Azerbaijani blockade. Khachatryan was due to have a heart operation in Yerevan and was one of a limited number of people being allowed passage through the checkpoint with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

He was charged with genocide and deportation or forced transfer of a population. He had faced 14 to 20 years or life imprisonment. However, prosecutors requested he be given 15 years.

In his closing statement before judgment was passed, Khachaturyan said that while the massacre at Meshali had taken place, he had not taken part in it. “I am a man who believes in God. May God punish those who committed that crime”, Khachaturyan said, adding that while the perpetrators remained at large, it was him standing before the court. He had maintained throughout the trial that he worked as a driver at the time of the massacre and was in the nearby village of Badara, where he lived when it took place.

Armenian authorities have repeatedly criticised Khachaturyan’s prosecution. Following the verdict, Armenia’s Human Rights Defender condemned the trial as not “observing the international legal standards and guarantees related to human rights”. They called on international rights groups to “respond immediately”. During that exodus, Azerbaijan arrested eight former high-ranking officials of the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, including its last three presidents. They face various charges, including terrorism and separatism. Their trials have yet to start.



Tbilisi. Photo:

Georgia recommended for EU membership candidate status

On November 8, the European Commission recommended that the EU grant Georgia candidate status, paving the way for the bloc to begin the country’s accession process at the EU Council meeting later in December. Announcing the decision, the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said the commission “fully supports the genuine aspirations of the overwhelming majority of [Georgia’s] citizens to join the EU” but that “these aspirations need to be better mirrored by the authorities”.

Georgia’s rivalling political figures and groups – the prime minister, President, the ruling party, the opposition and civil society – all claimed the credit for the accomplishment, indicating that this historic day is not going to fix the nation’s fierce domestic divisions, which Brussels, in fact, sees as an obstacle on Georgia’s path toward European integration.

Nevertheless, Georgia remains behind Ukraine and Moldova in the European waiting room. In its recommendation for enlargement, the European Commission proposed opening accession talks with the two fellow ex-Soviet nations. At the same time, Georgia was recommended for membership status – a signpost Ukraine and Moldova passed last year.

Georgia was declined the status then, even though the three nations were previously bundled together as prospective members. The Georgian government’s decisions to take a cautious stance toward Russia and even allow economic rapprochement with Moscow in the middle of Russia’s war on Ukraine were widely blamed for the flop, writes Eurasianet.

The Commission recommended granting EU candidate’s status to Georgia “on the understanding that certain reform steps are taken.” These steps include nine of the 12 EU priorities the European Commission presented to the country in March 2002. In addition to greater precision of the outstanding priorities, there are new ones – the fight against disinformation, including anti-EU disinformation and foreign information manipulation and interference against EU values and Georgia’s alignment with the EU foreign policy. The Union also stated that it would closely monitor the conduct of the parliamentary elections in October 2024 when deciding on Georgia’s EU prospects.

Meanwhile, a new public opinion poll commissioned by the International Republican Institute (IRI) and released on November 15 shows Georgian citizens’ strong support for EU and NATO membership. When asked what Georgia’s foreign policy should be, 44% said it should only be pro-European and pro-Western. As a result, 73% fully support and 13% somewhat support Georgia’s accession to the EU, with 55% saying they would support it even if it meant cutting trade ties with Russia. 45% say that the main benefit of joining the EU is to strengthen the economy, and 27% cite political instability in Georgia as the main obstacle to EU integration.

  • LOMSADZE Giorgi,, “Georgia recommended for EU membership candidate status”,
  •, „Q&A: What Next for Progress on Georgia’s EU Membership Path?”
  •, “International Reactions on EC Recommendation to Grant Georgia Candidate Status”,
  •, “IRI Poll Shows Strong Support of Georgian Citizens for EU and NATO Membership”,
Georgian killed by Russian border troops

On November 6, Russian forces shot dead a Georgian citizen Tamaz Ginturi and abducted Levan Dotiashvili. Georgian TV stations reported that two residents of the village of Kirbali were visiting a church on the ABL when Russian/South Ossetian border troops approached them. They shot Tamaz Ginturi, 58, multiple times, killing him, and detained Levan Dotiashvili, 33, taking him to jail in the de-facto capital Tskhinvali.

South Ossetia’s de-facto Foreign Ministry released a statement claiming that the two men had “displayed an extreme level of aggression towards the servicemen of the border guard and posed a threat to their life and health.”

Georgian TV stations reported that Ginturi was a veteran of the 2008 Georgia-Russia war, which was fought mainly in and around South Ossetia.

In remarks to Mtavari TV, one fellow resident of Kirbali speculated that Ginturi might have resisted detention instead of risking sharing the fate of Archil Tatunashvili, another Georgian veteran arrested for allegedly crossing into South Ossetia who was later reportedly tortured to death in separatist custody.

After the incident, the Georgian State Security Service convened a meeting with Russian representatives and the EU Monitoring Mission, whose unarmed monitors patrol areas along the borderline. It said it demanded that Dotiashvili be released and that Ginturi’s killers be punished.

On November 9, de-facto, South Ossetia released Dotiashvili from detention. Dotiashvili added that he was detained in Tskhinvali, where he was interrogated. He said that he was “not insulted” or put under pressure.

The tragedy caused a wave of indignation in the West. On November 23, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the killing of Tamaz Ginturi and the abduction of Levan Dotiashvili by majority of 495 votes. The Parliament “strongly condemned” both the killing and the kidnapping, calling for a “thorough investigation into this and other murders.” MEPs reiterated their support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders. Murder was also strongly condemned by representatives of the US.

  •, “Russian Occupation Forces Kill One Georgian Citizen, Abduct Another”,,

  •, “European Parliament Adopts Resolution on Killed Tamaz Ginturi”,

  •, “Georgian killed by Russian border troops”,

  • SHOSHIASHVILI Tata, OC Media, “South Ossetia returns captured Georgian national”,

Georgian President claimed Bidzina Ivanishvili is a pro-Russian oligarch

On November 12, the President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili, gave an interview to the French publication Le Monde. During the interview, the President spoke about the founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, whom she described, for the first time, as an oligarch under Russian influence.

“He is an oligarch who has accumulated wealth in Russia. And his past directly influences his mentality. Today, the world is divided in two. Ivanishvili is in the ranks of those who cannot imagine that Russia will be defeated, so he is trying to adapt in advance to a Russian victory, which could become even more aggressive. Relatively young people, educated in Europe and now in power in Georgia, under Ivanishvili’s influence, show weakness and take a flattering stance towards Russia. This is a poor perception of the new geopolitical situation,” said Zurabishvili.

The President was asked whether she concurs with the view of Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili that the founder of the “Georgian Dream,” Bidzina Ivanishvili, played a role in the European Commission’s recommendation to grant Georgia the EU candidate status. “He [Ivanishvili] played an important role in nominating me [in 2018] as a pro-European candidate for the presidency,” – Zurabishvili said, adding, “although he did not play a positive role in accelerating our progress towards the European Union, which Ukraine spearheaded.”

Asked to comment on the de-oligarchisation, which is one of the EC recommendations to Georgia and whether she considers Ivanishvili to be an oligarch, Zurabishvili said that she believes “the answer to de-oligarchisation lies in the future elections.” Zurabishvili reiterated the importance of free elections and a genuine coalition government for Georgia.

Zurabishvili said: “I do not know his real weight in the country’s economic affairs. The whole thing is not at all transparent,” adding, “what is clear is that he has a dominant influence over the current leadership. In Georgian politics today, there is no oligarch other than Ivanishvili.”

The President also welcomed the positive opinion of the European Commission on granting Georgia the candidate status, adding that it will not necessarily strengthen the position of the Georgian Dream. “I’m not worried. This positive opinion has one fundamental effect: it forces the authorities to take a pro-European position, which hasn’t happened for months. Suppose the opposition, which is fragmented, wants to take advantage of this new situation. In that case, it will have to campaign differently,” she said.


Skyline of Tbilisi. Photo:

Georgian Government Approves De-Oligarchisation Action Plan

At the government meeting on November 27, the Georgian government approved the De-Oligarchisation Action Plan defined by the EU’s 12 priorities as their constituent part. The plan aims to meet the European Commission’s fifth priority on de-oligarchisation in Georgia and the Venice Commission’s legal opinions, including the adoption of a “systemic approach,” the Government of Georgia developed the Action Plan based on legislation and measures in seven different areas, including the fight against corruption, public procurement, competition policy, the judiciary, the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, the monitoring of the financial activities of political parties, and the media.

The Georgian government had initially drafted the law in response to the European Commission’s recommendation on de-oligarchisation and had transposed the Ukrainian law on de-oligarchisation to Georgia, albeit with some changes, such as giving the government the power to draw up the list of oligarchs instead of the President. The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission criticised the draft law and recommended that Georgia shelve the draft law, citing the potential for political abuse and arbitrary application. On September 19, the ruling Georgian Dream party ultimately dropped the bill in the third hearing in the Parliament.

On November 8, 2023, the European Commission recommended Georgia’s candidacy, but among other things, asked the country to improve the current action plan to implement a multi-sectorial, systemic approach to de-oligarchisation, in line with Venice Commission recommendations and accompanied by a transparent and inclusive process involving opposition parties and civil society.

Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili stated that the action plan on de-oligarchisation was developed in close cooperation with the European Commission, and in the point regarding the financing of political parties, the opinions of the Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIR were also taken into account.

As for the issue that legal entities will be banned from donating to political parties, Papuashvili said there are risks of circumventing the limit set for individuals through legal entities: “It is easy to create a legal entity, create several, then distribute the set ceiling and donate. In general, the volume of donations from legal entities is deficient. In 2020, only 3% of total party income/donations came from legal entities.” “We did not take the de-oligarchisation action plan out of thin air. We did not come up with the problems presented. This was the advice of the Venice Commission,” parliamentary majority MP Henri Ohanashvili told reporters. According to him, the opposition should say what they think should be added or reduced in the plan.

Conservative Party leader and former majority member Zviad Dzidziguri said that “with regulations, laws on de-oligarchisation, etc., we cannot change the situation in the country” because Ivanishvili is a smart enough person that no rules apply to him. “He has been able to do this for many years and will continue to do so in the future,” Dzidziguri says.

Georgian Dream chairman Irakli Kobakhidze said, “It is impossible that the problem of oligarchs will be solved only based on legislative changes – oligarchs are in politics today and will probably continue their political activities.” According to Kobakhidze, legislation and action plans generally will not solve this kind of problem, although some progress could be made based on a plan.

  •, “Government Action Plan on De-oligarchisation”,

  • JAM News, “The Government of Georgia has developed a de-oligarchization plan. What does it involve?”

Leadership Turmoil in Georgia’s United National Movement: Melia Out, Confirms Khabeishvili

On November 27, the United National Movement’s Chair, Levan Khabeishvili, said that the party’s former leader, Nika Melia, is “not a member” of the party anymore. In an interview with Formula, Khabeishvili appeared to dodge questions about Melia’s current status within the party. Speculation about whether Melia was still a member of the UNM peaked after he and several key supporters within the party refused to sign a “manifesto of unity” last week. Khabeishvili and other party leaders warned that failure to endorse the new document would result in an automatic withdrawal from the UNM.

“I publicly say that this particular person does not represent the “National Movement,” is not a member of the “National Movement,” and cannot speak on behalf of the “National Movement,” he said. To the question of Nino Zhizhilashvili, one of the program’s presenters where Khabeishvili was invited for an interview, “Did you expel him?” Khabeishvili responded: “If you are interested in a specific document, write to us, if you want legally, and we will answer you and publicly tell you that he is not a member of the party and does not represent the party.”

“I didn’t throw him out; he decided that he is not a member of the National Movement,” Khabeishvili said. However, Nika Melia has not announced anything of such. So far, Melia has yet to comment on what Khabeishvili said.

As the Caucasus Watch reminds us, the “National Movement” controversy started about a year ago when Levan Khabeishvili and his associates publicly announced that elections were necessary to elect the chairman. The then-acting chairman, Nika Melia, agreed to this, and he was defeated. Nika Melia spoke openly about informal governance in the “National Movement”; however, he did not decide to leave the party despite this.

Mikheil Sarjveladze, Chairman of the Human Rights Committee in the Georgian Parliament, said that the political defeat experienced by the “National Movement” continues and will soon end with the complete end of this political party. Giorgi Baramidze, one of the leaders of the United National Movement, announced that he was categorically against the campaign targeting Nika Melia and that he was and still is against Melia’s expulsion from the party.

He added that the United National Movement chairman has the authority to expel a member, although he does not share the political expediency of such a move. According to Baramidze, if the disagreement with the party’s chairman in this matter is considered incompatible with the political secretariat of the United National Movement, he is ready to appeal to the chairman and the general secretary to resign from his positions.

Divisions over power hierarchy and political vision have led to a crisis in the UNM. Pleas for unity from its jailed leader, ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, proved futile.

  • Caucasus Watch, “Leadership Turmoil in Georgia’s United National Movement: Melia Out, Confirms Khabeishvili”,

  • SHOSHIASHVILI Tata, OC Media, „Former UNM chair Nika Melia ‘no longer’ a member of the party”,

  • LOMSADZE Giorgi,, “Georgia’s dis-United National Movement”,

Georgian government revokes controversial Racha hunting license

On November 28, after weeks of mass protests, the National Environmental Agency invalidated a 49-year hunting license for 104,712 hectares of Racha forest granted to Davit Khidasheli’s company, HG Capra Caucasica LLC.

The National Environment Agency claimed it had instructed HG Capra Caucasica LLC to submit a report on the hunting farm’s impact on the Emerald Network and the Management Plan by March 25. The company failed to comply, leading the Department of Environmental Supervision to initiate administrative offence proceedings in May. However, on July 24, the Ambrolauri court terminated the case. The Department appealed this decision to the Kutaisi Court of Appeal on July 27.

The land was auctioned off to HG Capra Caucasica, a limited liability company owned by Davit Khidasheli, in April 2022. Khidasheli is a Russia-based businessman with reported ties to Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party. Georgian activists have opposed the lease over the forest in the Racha-Lechkumi and Kvemo Svaneti regions, citing Khidasheli’s ties to Russian oligarchs such as Vladimir Yevtushenkov.

Saving Rioni Valley, a grassroots environmental movement, has led several protests against the lease since late September, starting in Racha and moving their protests to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture in Tbilisi in mid-November.

When Saving Rioni Valley moved to Tbilisi to protest, the police arrested 11 of their members for attempting to set up a tent. While all activists were later released, they are awaiting trial on charges of petty hooliganism and disobeying police orders, reported OC Media.

  • SHOSHIASHVILI Tata, OC Media, „Georgian government revokes controversial Racha hunting license”,
  •, „National Environmental Agency Revokes Khidasheli’s 49-Year Hunting License”,

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