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CORRECTED: Georgia foils plot to murder prominent journalist: PM

June 17, 2020

Georgia has thwarted a plot to assassinate a journalist who went on an expletive-laden tirade against Russian President Vladimir Putin on live television last year, the Georgian prime minister said Wednesday.

“Georgian secret services have foiled a very serious crime,” Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia told journalists.

Gakharia made the comments in response to allegations by the director of a pro-opposition TV station that a Russian national was sent to Georgia to assassinate journalist Giorgi Gabunia.

Mtavari TV director Nika Gvaramia said that according to an anonymous source, a Russian man named Vasambeg Bokov was dispatched to the ex-Soviet country to carry out the killing.

The assassination was ordered by the leader of Russia’s Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, Gvaramia said, citing his source.

Georgia’s state security service announced earlier this week it has detained an “ethnic-Ingush Russian national V.B. for using fake identification documents.”

“The arrest was made within the framework of an investigation into plotting a murder,” a statement on Monday said.

In July last year, Gabunia launched into a live, expletive-laden tirade against President Putin in Russian that sparked fury in Moscow.

Georgia’s foreign ministry on Wednesday said that “plotting to assassinate a journalist is absolutely unacceptable.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov responded calling the allegations “absurd” while Kadyrov denied the claims in a post on his Telegram channel.

“Believe me, if someone is acting on my orders, he will accomplish them, and if a mission is to be accomplished quietly, nobody… will not learn about it,” Kadyrov wrote.

He said the journalist should kneel and apologise “or else, I repeat that he will remain my enemy.”

Russia and Georgia have long been at loggerheads over Tbilisi’s drive to forge closer ties with the European Union and NATO.

The confrontation culminated in a brief but bloody war in August 2008 over Georgia’s Moscow-backed separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The war saw Russian forces occupying swathes of Georgia’s territory and bombing both military and civilian targets across the country.

Russian troops withdrew from Georgia after an EU-mediated ceasefire.

After the war, Moscow recognised both separatist regions as independent states and stationed permanent military bases there.

Georgia reacted by cutting diplomatic relations with its Soviet-era master Moscow.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.