The Georgian State Security Service on Monday released information on an investigation looking into members of the Center for Applied Nonviolent Actions and Strategies (CANVAS), a Serbian non-governmental organization, and USAID, suggesting its belief that USAID is funding a revolution.
Former Prime Minister and leader of the ‘For Georgia’ party, Giorgi Gakharia, responded to the allegations, blaming the Georgian Dream (GD) party for preparing a “revolutionary scenario” in the country.
Gakharia claimed that GD is afraid of losing the 2024 elections and of protests, and as such is waging “hybrid warfare against its citizens by threatening them with a baseless security service investigation, suppressing freedom of assembly, and blaming USAID for supporting alleged revolutionary scenarios in Georgia.”
“This anti-Western government can’t break Georgia’s longstanding strategic partnership with the US. The people of Georgia will preserve it through peaceful, democratic political change,” he emphasized.
The State Security Service (SSSG) on Monday released information about the investigative action conducted against the organization CANVAS and made public “part of the evidence”. On September 25, they say, at the invitation of the East-West Management Institute of the USAID program, Serbian citizens Sinisa Sikman, Jelena Stoisic and Slobodan Jinovic arrived in Georgia. According to the SSSG, these persons are connected with the 2003 revolutionary events in Georgia, and in different years they also had connections with similar processes in Serbia, Ukraine and other states.
The SSSG further claims that these individuals were actively teaching methods of creating protest drives and tactics for the conducting of violent protests. They added that they represent the management link of the “Canvas” organization. Further claims are that Sinisa Sikman and Slobodan Jinovic are former members of the “Otpor” organization, which was an analog of the Georgian organization “Kmara” in Serbia.
The SSSG says the individuals officially came to Georgia to conduct trainings for groups working in the field of culture in matters of “strategic non-violent fight,” but the investigation established that this was not the only purpose of their arrival in Georgia. “In particular, the real purpose of the visit was to establish communication and conduct trainings with those young people and influential non-governmental organizations which were to become the core of destructive and illegal actions planned in Georgia in October-December of this year,” the SSSG claimed.
“We will, of course, need to clarify why USAID funded such training, the direct purpose of which was to prepare for a revolution in Georgia. We will allow neither a revolution nor a second front,” Georgian Dream chairman Irakli Kobakhidze responded, claiming that the scenario is unrest, revolution, and that the final goal is a second front for the Ukraine war.
CANVAS representatives strongly denied the allegations that it was fomenting violent unrest in Georgia.
“All of our programs and trainings, taught in over 50 countries, are based on the non-violent struggle curriculum that is publicly available online,” their statement reads. “The State Security Service of Georgia decided to create a national controversy out of nothing, since the content of the training course was previously known, held at a public location, and aimed to support civil society organizations in Georgia, to better equip them with tools and knowledge on community organization and advocating for positive social changes.”
The statement adds that “no legal documents presenting an investigation” were given to the three CANVAS trainers that were interrogated on September 29, and neither could they make a statement since they were bound by non-disclosure rules.”
The organization claims the SSSG allegations are part of a “larger smear campaign that Georgian security agencies are conducting against civil society in Georgia and the CANVAS staff in Tbilisi” and links them “with a successful civic campaign carried out in Tbilisi from February to March of 2023 against the so-called ‘Russian Law.’”
The US Embassy also responded to the above allegations, claiming that they are fake.
“Allegations made publicly today against one of our assistance projects are false and fundamentally mischaracterize the goals of our assistance to Georgia,” the Embassy wrote. “USAID has been supporting the Georgian people since 1992. As always, our assistance is transparent, and we welcome any opportunities to discuss any concerns the government may have.
“The right of citizens to freely voice their concerns and aspirations is foundational to any democracy, and is a value shared by both of our countries. USAID has collaborated with CANVAS for more than two years to help people to speak up for the issues that matter to their families and communities. We have partnered with CANVAS to deliver training to mothers advocating for better cancer treatments for children, and to people advocating for the rights of elderly citizens in their communities,” reads the statement.
According to the Embassy, despite these unwarranted attacks, they will continue to support Georgian organizations who support people to secure the future they determine and deserve, and to secure their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Georgian Constitution.