“People will not tolerate such politics for long”

Former Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze has sharply criticized Mikhail Saakashvili’s regime, warning that any further deterioration in living conditions in the country would end in mass protests.

­In an interview with the Georgian newspaper Asaval-Dasavali, 83-year old Eduard Shavardnadze said that the Georgian people “will not tolerate the politics of the country’s current authorities”. He noted that “instead of creating the circumstances for improving the living conditions for the population, the authorities are creating the conditions for its deterioration”, as he gave the increasing price of consumer goods and unemployment to back up his sentiments.

Shevardnadze also advised President Saakashvili to really think about the conditions in which the Georgian population lives, and take urgent measures to improve these conditions. “People will not tolerate such politics for long,” he added.

The former Georgian president also said that it would be a clever move on the Georgian authorities’ part to recognize the independence of Abkhazia. Shevardnadze said that Abkhazia would never become what it used to be – an ordinary Georgian region – and the only thing Georgia can hope for is to build normal neighborly relations with this independent state. In particular, recognizing Abkhazia’s independence could facilitate the return of refugees, Shevardnadze said.

Representatives of the Georgian government replied to the interview by stating that they didn’t need any advice from the man whose policies drove the country into a serious crisis, and added that Saakashvili’s administration had done a lot to fight unemployment and provide a better life for the people.

Also, Shevardnadze commented on the latest in a string of Georgian spy scandals – the detention of several photo journalists who have been accused of spying for Russia. The former president praised the decision to release the photographers from custody, but attributed it to the pressure society put on the security services and the state in general.  “The journalists and the general public in Georgia voiced their unanimous support for the detained photographers, which played a big part in the authorities’ decision to set them free,” Shevardnadze said in the interview.

Georgian prosecutors ordered the release of the four detained photographers on Friday, adding that all of the detainees had agreed to cooperate with the investigation. At the same time, defense lawyers for the detained had previously stated that their clients completely denied their complicity in any illegal activities, as one of the suspected spies even went on a hunger strike to demonstrate his protest.

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