Fugitive rebel leader Akaki Eliava and several Zviadist chieftains published in the Tbilisi press yesterday an ultimatum-like set of demands to President Eduard Shevardnadze. They are asking him to: release the Zviadists detained after their October 19 abortive putsch, issue a “political and legal assessment of the armed overthrow of legitimate authority in 1992” (that is, the ouster of then-President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, followed by Shevardnadze’s return to Georgia and to power), and resign by November 15 as president. Barring compliance by Shevardnadze, the “national-patriotic forces” will launch an all-out struggle “to forcibly cleanse the country of the traitors” (Russian agencies, NTV, November 2). Eliava is on the run with perhaps several dozen supporters, unable thus far to arouse Mingrelia, who is supposed by some to still be a Zviadist stronghold.
Interestingly, some Russian official and semi-official circles have, after October 19, also called for Shevardnadze to discuss with the Zviadists a “political and legal assessment of Gamsakhurdia’s overthrow” (for example, the official Rossiiskaya gazeta, October 21). The suggestion appears designed to legitimize the Zviadists, rescue them from marginality, reunify their divided factions, and throw them at Shevardnadze in Tbilisi’s political arena, where their nuisance value would be greater than it is now in Mingrelia.
While probably bluffing, the “ultimatum’s” authors hope at least to derail the local elections due this month, the first local elections since Georgia became independent. These elections are regarded as a test of both the country’s democratization under Shevardnadze’s rule and the strength of those “national-patriotic forces” in whose name the Zviadists now speak. Those forces are a heterogeneous array of groups whose only common denominator is hostility to Shevardnadze. Some of these groups have Moscow’s support.
One member of that coalition is the United Communist Party led by Panteleimon Giorgadze (see CIS section above). Panteleimon’s son, Igor Giorgadze, suspected mastermind of the 1995 and February 1998 assassination attempts against Shevardnadze, is being sheltered by Russia’s intelligence services. Interviewed in the current issue of the “Moscow weekly Obshchaya gazeta,” Giorgadze similarly announces the start of a decisive struggle against Shevardnadze (Obshchaya gazeta cited by Russian agencies, October 30, November 2).
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