Georgian officer’s asylum plea
The story of Lieutenant Alika Bzhania was revealed this week and has fuelled tensions in the relations between Tbilisi and Moscow.
The Georgian naval officer, Alik Bzhania, now wants to be Russian. At a press-conference in Moscow, he explained to a crowd of journalists why. He pointed the finger directly at his country’s president, Mikhail Saakashvili.
“In the Georgian army, we couldn’t even say anything negative about Saakashvili’s regime,” the defected soldier explained.
“Otherwise we could be immediately kicked out. And I could no longer tolerate watching my country being destroyed from the inside,” Bzhania added.
On May the 23rd, he crossed the border with Abkhazia and asked the region’s Russian peacekeeping force for political asylum.
Tbilisi described it as provocation and stressed that Bzhania was in fact fired from the country’s naval forces prior to his move. The media also suggested he moved purely for economic reasons, as his salary in the coast guard was too low.
But at RT’s headquarters in Moscow, the man produced his active military ID to refute the claims.
He said he made the decision because Georgia was re-arming and he did not want to fight against Russia
“The Georgian forces are re-arming. Reservists are being summoned to the armed forces. I saw reports about it every day on the Georgian state television,” he explained.
“Saakashvili is clearly not stepping off his course and I don’t want to take part in another war with Russia. I don’t want to shoot at my brothers. That’s why I left.”
While tensions grip his homeland, Alik has asked the media to put pressure on the Georgian authorities not to harm the family he left behind.
Bzhania’s escape comes amid mounting tension between Moscow and Tbilisi. Russia’s Foreign Ministry believes Georgia is deliberately raising tensions in the South Ossetian and Abkhazian regions. At the same time Tbilisi believes that Russia has become paranoid.
While this blame-game continues, Georgia is going through severe political turmoil. The country was even on the verge of military mutiny in May, when a tank battalion briefly revolted. Opposition leaders say it’s no wonder someone would want to defect from such an army.
The opposition hasn’t given up and is still demanding the president's resignation. In the latest twist, their tent camp in front of presidential residence was destroyed by an unknown crowd.
“It's another provocation, but it’s all temporary. All these so-called ‘Saakashvili victories’ will turn against him,” Nino Burzhnadze, the head of Georgian opposition, said.