Sanctioned Partskhaladze - Traces of Russia’s spy agencies in Georgian politics
The imposition of sanctions on former Prosecutor General of Georgia Otar Partskhaladze by the US Department of State on September 14, 2023 was followed by sharply negative remarks made by the representatives of the authorities, People's Power - Georgian Dream’s satellite political union, and far-right groups. In unison, with identical rhetoric, the mentioned forces tried to protect Otar Partskhaladze, who was sanctioned due to Russia's harmful influence on the Georgian authorities.

On September 18, 2023, after the activities of the former Prosecutor General of Georgia in favour of the Federal Security Service of Russia were exposed, he was restricted from accessing bank assets and financial transactions by the order of the National Bank. The said decision was termed by Georgian Dream Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze as unconstitutional, who noted that the action of the National Bank contradicted the presumption of innocence and the Constitution of Georgia. Following the mentioned assessment, the acting President of the National Bank of Georgia, Natia Turnava, made changes to the rules of enforcement of sanctions regimes. In particular, "International sanctions cannot be imposed on a Georgian citizen, unless there is a judgement of conviction delivered by a Georgian court against him."

Natia Turnava's actions, which led to the resignation of three Vice-Presidents of the National Bank, were positively evaluated by the Georgian Dream’s satellite political union, People's Power, and the openly pro-Russian Alt-Info.

On September 19, in the Post-Analytics programme, Eka Sepiashvili (co-author of the so-called Russian draft law on transparency of foreign influence) reviewed the policy of sanctions being implemented in response to the Russia-Ukraine war and, with anti-Western rhetoric and by repeatedly mentioning the Constitution of Georgia, positively assessed the package of changes implemented by the National Bank: "It is very good that the National Bank issued a decree that is in full compliance with the Constitution and recognizes the presumption of innocence."

Guram Macharashvili, a representative of People's Power, repeated identical messages: "The National Bank has now approved norms in compliance with the Constitution. The Constitution protects the citizen of Georgia, his life, health and property. Accordingly, property must be protected in any case, regardless of what international norm applies."

The Georgian Dream Chairman tried to protect the sanctioned former Prosecutor of Georgia by referring not only to the Constitution, but also to legal guarantees. Irakli Kobakhidze, an active supporter of the so-called Russian draft law on transparency of foreign influence in the recent past, said: "You cannot call a person an agent unless there is a court judgement." His rhetoric turned out to be acceptable to the presenters of Alt-Info, a far-right, openly pro-Russian media platform. In the Comment of the Day programme, Tengo Omanidze reviewed the sanctioning of Otar Partskhaladze with anti-American sentiments and noted: "Representatives of the opposition have already convicted a person, without a court judgement, and declared him a Russian spy, agent, traitor."

Aleksandre Palavandishvili, leader of the far-right organization Society for the Protection of Children's Rights, also responded positively to the changes made by the National Bank and noted in a Facebook post that "As soon as the National Bank started obeying the Constitution of Georgia instead of the USA, the agents left the Bank as a sign of protest!"

The Democracy Research Institute considers it a worrying trend that, instead of implementing effective national security mechanisms, the Government, together with far-right pro-Russian forces, tries to to cover up the direct influence of Russian agents in Georgia. In response to this challenge, it is important to carry out fundamental reforms in the security sector in order to neutralize the influence of a hostile state.