18 October 2021,   23:33
Georgia endures Russian occupation and COVID-19 disinformation campaigns – The Washington Times publishes the letter of the Ambassador of Georgia to the USA

The Washington Times publishes the letter of the Ambassador of Georgia to the USA Davit Bakradze, who describes the consequences of the Russian occupation of Georgian territories and the intensified strategy of hybrid warfare.

“Twelve years ago this month, Russian tanks and troops marched into Georgia, imposing illegal new borders that stripped Georgia of 20% of its sovereign territory. At the Kremlin’s orders Russian forces continue their de facto annexation of these territories while attempting to eradicate Georgian heritage in the occupied regions.

Recently, hybrid warfare has become Russia’s weapon of choice, aimed at spreading disinformation about Georgia’s widely applauded response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The impact of the Russian invasion in 2008 remains horrifically vivid. Russia’s occupation displaced tens of thousands people, and human rights violations, kidnappings, even murders, of Georgians in the occupied territories are common.

Russia has moved relentlessly to incorporate the occupied regions into Russia by supporting artificially empowered local governments, futilely seeking international recognition of the territories as independent states, and handing out Russian passports to their inhabitants. Full-scale Russian military bases now exist in both territories. Russia also runs off-the-grid financial networks through these territories to avoid international sanctions.

Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted the Georgia Support Act, condemning Russia’s activities in the occupied territories and imposing sanctions on persons involved in human rights violations against Georgians. The Senate should now pass this legislation that will provide critical support for countering hybrid threats and building Georgia’s resilience.

Russia has intensified its aggression against Georgia through hybrid warfare familiar to both European and American targets of Russian influence operations. In 2019, Russia launched powerful cyberattacks against thousands of Georgian websites, which forced government, media, banking and medical sites, among others, off-line for an extended period.

Russian disinformation against Georgia has gone into high gear during the pandemic, with a particularly virulent campaign being directed at the Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research in Tbilisi, a transformative institution started with funding from the people of the United States”, - reads the article.