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    President Kaczynski was killed by Russia, says Saakashvili’s friend

    “Mikheil Saakashvili is being killed slowly – unlike how Putin killed our great friend and true leader of Poland, President Lech Kaczynski. We believe he was killed by Russia, and it was a punishment for a free Georgia. We remember President Kaczynski’s visit to Georgia and his friendly relations with President Saakashvili. The Polish President supported Georgia and helped it to survive in 2008. But that was when Vladimir Putin promised to take revenge on those who helped the Georgians. So he killed your president, the leader of free Europe,” Giorgi Chaladze, a friend and close associate of President Mikheil Saakashvili, tells

    Mr Chaladze, what is the current condition of President Saakashvili?

    The last time I had a chance to see him was the day before he left Georgia for Warsaw, where we arrived to receive the President Lech Kaczyński Promethean Award on his behalf. I saw a man who looks like a living corpse, like someone close to death. This condition is caused by heavy metal poisoning, for which we have documentary confirmation in the form of a toxicology report drawn up in the USA, in California. We believe that Mikheil Saakashvili was poisoned while being held in prison, and the trail leads directly to the Putin regime. Mikheil Saakashvili is being killed slowly – unlike how Putin killed our great friend and true leader of Poland, President Lech Kaczynski. We believe he was killed by Russia, and it was a punishment for a free Georgia. We remember President Kaczynski’s visit to Georgia and his friendly relations with President Saakashvili. The Polish President supported Georgia and helped it to survive in 2008. But that was when Vladimir Putin promised to take revenge on those who helped the Georgians. So, he killed your president, the leader of free Europe. Now, he is slowly killing our president, my friend.

    Mikheil Saakashvili’s condition is deteriorating over time. We are fighting against time because every day he spends in a prison cell means that he will not receive medical help again. He needs immediate rescue, which the Polish government has agreed to provide. Poland has been very active in President Saakashvili’s case since the first day of his imprisonment. For humanitarian reasons, Poles are doing everything possible, starting with interventions in the European Parliament and ending with the actions of the Polish embassy in Tbilisi. All our friends in the Sejm, the Senate, Strasbourg, Brussels, and Tbilisi are doing everything they can.

    President Saakashvili has been linked to Ukraine for years. Today, this country, with the support of the free world, is defending itself against Russian aggression. But how is this war viewed by the current Georgian authorities, who sent President Saakashvili to prison? How do Georgian society and the opposition you represent view the war?

    When we talk about the war in Ukraine, we see a continuation of what started in 2008. President Saakashvili, together with President Kaczynski, warned the rest of the world that Russia would then attack Crimea, and Kyiv, followed by Poland and the rest of the world. Unfortunately, they were not believed at the time. The world thought it was an exaggeration. But time has shown that they were right.

    We believe that this is not a Russian-Ukrainian war. This is Russia’s war against a free Europe and a free society of the whole world. We see the war in Ukraine as part of the fight for our freedom as well. Many high-ranking professional military officers from Georgia went to fight, in Ukraine. For example, the participation in the war effort of former Georgian Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili, who fought there against Russia, or former Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze, is highly symbolic. As well as the participation of Georgia’s former deputy interior minister Giorgi Lortkipanidze, who became deputy head of Ukrainian intelligence. Many Georgian officials from President Saakashvili’s time are fighting with a rifle in hand on the Ukrainian side. We believe that we are also defending our future and our children. I believe that the free world will win.

    If Ukraine was occupied, they would go back to Georgia, to Poland. Putin’s crazy idea is that he wants to resurrect the Soviet Union. So he doesn’t think of Poland as a free country. He thinks of it as the lands of a ‘great Russia’ that never existed. We will fight him to the end, and we will not let Putin win against us.

    He will not be able to do so. The future belongs to the free world, with the new members of the European Union – Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. I hope that President Saakashvili, who managed to preserve Georgia’s statehood in 2008, will live to see it.

    Georgia became one of the destinations to which Russians fearing conscription began to flee en masse after the invasion of Ukraine. What is the situation now? Are the newcomers trying to influence the Georgians?

    In 2012, President Saakashvili – the first leader in the region – peacefully handed over power after losing the elections. It was taken over by a party that unfortunately turned out to be a fully Russian-led grouping. This is not a pro-Russian government. It is a Russian government. Members of the government in Tbilisi have Russian passports as part of their dual citizenship. The state is ruled by Russian oligarchs. Thus, for example, the Russian oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili has appointed his private bodyguard as Minister of the Interior. His other personal bodyguard is the head of the country’s secret service. The Georgian prime minister is Ivanishvili’s private banker, i.e., the man who personally signed documents for multi-million-dollar transfers. The Georgian defence minister, in turn, is a former ranking official of the plastic card-issuing department of the Kartu bank, owned by the oligarch Ivanishvili. People are selected not based on professional qualifications, but on how dedicated they are. And all these people are linked to Ivanishvili and are directly Russian. They act solely in Russia’s interests, not in Georgia’s ones.

    When Russia’s large-scale attack on Ukraine started, of course, some normal people from Russia who do not support Putin’s policies came to Georgia. But we also see that envoys of the Russian secret services also arrived. It threatens the economy and security of the country. In particular, we saw their footprint during the recent events in Tbilisi [in mid-March there were protests in Georgia against the passing of the law on ‘foreign agents,’ which was described as a ‘Russian law’ – ed.]. And on the day when young Georgians came out to protest against the ‘Russian law,’ we saw hundreds of cars with families inside, leaving Georgia and returning to Russia.

    Georgia is a friendly country. We are warm and hospitable people. But when we see that a person is a secret service agent, although he tries to show that he is a friend, we do not believe him. And for me, if whole families leave the country during legitimate civil protests in Georgia, it is a signal that they have come to the country, not for peaceful purposes. They came for something else. And as soon as they saw that they lost, they just left.

    It is assumed that around 300,000 Russians came to Georgia, which would make up around 10 per cent of the country’s population.

    Unfortunately, the Georgian government is not transparent. And we can only rely on the data we see in the statistics. We do not know the real numbers. It could be more than these 300,000. On the streets of Tbilisi at present, only Russian speakers can be heard. Most cars have Russian number plates. Restaurants are introducing menus in Russian, although we replaced Russian with English earlier.

    We respect the literature, and the culture of Russia, but Russian politicians are a red line, behind which is the occupation policy of Russia and Putin. We do not belong to the Russian population. Instead, we belong to the European Union, along with Poland, Ukraine, and other Central European countries. We are a European state, not the former Soviet Union.

    Can we say that the question of President Saakashvili’s freedom depends directly on Putin’s decision?

    Yes, I believe so. The only one who benefits from Mikheil Saakashvili’s current situation is Putin. He is the only one in the whole world who enjoys it. In 2008, Putin stated, to quote him bluntly – ‘I will hang Saakashvili by the balls.’ And since then he has been trying to take revenge on Mikheil and is now trying to kill him. I see the world is trying to prevent this from happening. But we have to hurry because Micheil might already be dead when we win.

    Anyway, I am not the only one who sees the situation clearly. This is Putin’s personal revenge, implemented by the Russian oligarch Ivanishvili in Georgia. How are Putin and Ivanishvili linked? If the Russian oligarch Ivanishvili opposes Putin’s decisions, his life will be in danger. We know how Putin kills people he doesn’t like. President Saakashvili was poisoned like Navalny or Skripal. Anyone who opposes Putin dies from a bullet, an ‘accident’ or poisoning. And we know that if Ivanishvili goes against Putin, he will die. He doesn’t want that and would rather keep Mikheil until he dies than die himself.

    Could Mikheil Saakashvili not return to Georgia in October 2021?

    Yes, he could. But President Saakashvili is a statesman. I remember very well how in 2008. [at the time of the Russian attack -ed.] his phone rang. On the line was the US president, who said: “Mikheil, the plane is ready. We are evacuating you and your family from the country.’ Micheil, without thinking long, replied: “I don’t need a plane. I need my country to survive, to fight against Russia.” And he stayed in the country. Without that, the Russians would have occupied Tbilisi and we would have remained a region of Russia. The same thing happened with Zelensky. He also got a call offering to leave Kyiv and evacuate to the US but also refused.

    Coming back to Georgia, President Saakashvili knew about the risks. But he also knew that without his participation the political processes in the country would descend entirely to the level of Russian reality. It was the only right decision – to return to the country [after an eight-year absence – ed.]. But the truth is also that Russia was very interested in separating Mikheil from Zelensky. Zelensky is a hero president who now also has experience fighting against Putin. If these two heroes of the fight for the free world against Putin had joined forces, it would have increased their chances of winning. Therefore, it was in Russia’s interest to have President Saakashvili return to Georgia and imprison him there. Today, he would be sitting on CNN, tomorrow on the BBC, and the day after tomorrow on SkyNews. And he would have reached out to every prime minister or president in the world to help President Zelensky.

    I remember how Russian propaganda portrayed Zelensky. As in the case of Mikheil, it said that Zelensky was weak, afraid to fight, that he was a comedian, and unable to govern the country. But we see that he is a star of world politics, a man of the free world, a leader. We are proud of what he is doing now.

    I still believe that Mikheil’s return to the country is not the end. It is just the beginning of the story. I believe that he has a mission to fulfil not only in Georgia but in the whole region.

    The President Lech Kaczynski Promethean Award will be presented today. However, yesterday Georgian government party MP Eka Sepashvili said: “It is possible that the awards were paid for by the family of the third president.” How would you comment on these words?

    We recently received the Sjur Lindebrække Prize for Democracy and Human Rights in Norway on behalf of President Saakashvili. And immediately after the award was presented, the Norwegian ambassador to Georgia was summoned to the Georgian Foreign Ministry. There was a political protest from the Georgian government, whose representatives stated that President Saakashvili should not have been decorated.

    The member of parliament who alleged on Tuesday that Saakashvili’s family, ‘paid money for the award,’ is not the first. With every success we have, after every step we take, they call members of parliament bribed. They claim that the President of Ukraine is allegedly bribed by everyone who is on the bright side. And such words are insulting to Poland and the Poles. Paradoxically, these are said by people who came to power not through qualifications, but through money. They know no other way of advancement than bribery. That is why we will never see the oligarch Ivanishvili receiving any reward unless he pays for it.

    The Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland

    Although it must be admitted that freedom of speech is about free expression. These members of parliament, by how they speak about Poland, have the right to demonstrate how stupid or corrupt they are.

    On the other hand – I feel sorry and apologise to Poland and our friends for such an insult. Especially as here on the table before us lies a document signed by President Lech Kaczyński, who on 3 March 2008 awarded Mikheil Saakashvili the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland for his ‘outstanding merits in developing cooperation between the Republic of Poland and Georgia.’ Now we are receiving, on behalf of President Saakashvili, the President Lech Kaczyński Promethean Award of the portal.

    We are very grateful and thank the portal for organising such an event, especially at such a difficult time. President Saakashvili was pleased and proud to receive this award.

    During the years of Mikheil Saakashvili’s presidency, you accompanied him. You also met President Lech Kaczyński.

    I witnessed President Kaczyński’s visit to Georgia in 2008. He and President Saakashvili went to the firing line. As soon as they [Russian military – ed.] found out that the Polish president had arrived, they saw him bravely getting out of the car, they started shooting in the air. And I remember Mikheil Saakashvili and Lech Kaczynski telling security that they were not afraid. And that they would demonstratively get out of the car and show it. It was a symbol of courage. “We will stay to protect the land of Georgia in the name of free Europe.” It was one of the most courageous moments I have seen – President Kaczyński standing and listening to the firing of Russian Kalashnikov rifles. And yet we were not sure that they would not shoot at us.

    I also remember the words that President Kaczynski said that same day in the evening. We had a friendly dinner. He was very tired. At one point he went up to Professor Giuli Alasania, President Saakashvili’s mother, took her by the forearm and said, as he watched Mikheil say goodbye to the other presidents: “Professor Alasania, when I look at your son, he reminds me of myself in my youth.” And it was a very warm moment. It was a true friendship. He was a true friend of Georgia. And I think that if Lech Kaczynski were alive, Mikheil would not be in prison now. I’m sure about that.

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