Proposal for ‘Georgian referendum on war’ explained
A senior Georgian MP who suggested holding a referendum to confirm whether the people want the country to go to war with Russia says he put forward the idea in jest.
“There was sarcasm and some irony in the statement,” Irakli Kobakhidze, who leads the parliamentary faction of the Georgian Dream party, said in a TV interview on Wednesday evening. The party is part of the ruling coalition.
The proposal to hold a referendum on war came earlier this week, when the MP dismissed calls by Ukrainian officials, including the chair of the Ukrainian National Security Council, who suggested that Tbilisi could seize the moment and open a “second front” against Moscow.
Russia and Georgia were engaged in a brief armed conflict in August 2008, after then-President Mikhail Saakashvili sent troops to capture South Ossetia, a part of Georgia that had split from it in a bloody war in the 1990s. Russian peacekeepers stationed there to prevent potential hostilities were among the first people killed by the advancing Georgians.
Moscow retaliated and crushed the Georgian Army. It has since recognized South Ossetia, as well as Abkhazia, another breakaway region, as independent states and pledged its military protection to them. Tbilisi considers the regions to be occupied by Russia.
Officials in Kiev argued that Georgia is now in a position to capture land it claims as its own while Russia is engaged in the military operation in Ukraine. Kobakhidze said the government has no intention to fight Russia, but the issue could be put to a general vote.
In an interview with Rustavi2 TV, the MP said that opinion polls and studies have backed the government’s position that the people do not want to renew hostilities with Russia. This could change under certain circumstances, Kobakhidze added, but at the moment, Georgians realize that a war with Russia would pit them against people in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, making the conflict fratricidal.
“We must not allow any war in which Georgians and Abkhazians and Georgians and Ossetians would face each other with weapons in their hands again,” he said.