The Georgian government has announced that it has interrogated members of a US-funded group that had plans to instigate a violent color revolution in the country. The group, known as CANVAS, had previously been involved in civil unrest in Georgia in 2003.
According to Georgia’s State Security Service (SUS), three Serbian nationals from CANVAS arrived in Georgia last week and held meetings with local activists at a hotel in Tbilisi. Their objective was to train these activists in violent methods to overthrow the government. The planned actions included targeting the government, security services, and the Orthodox Church. Techniques such as roadblocks and setting up protest encampments in front of government buildings were to be employed. The SUS further revealed that CANVAS activists had shown examples from their work in Serbia, which involved invading the parliament, disabling broadcasting services, and overthrowing the government.
When questioned by the SUS on September 29, the three CANVAS members, Sinisa Sikman, Jelena Stoisic, and Slobodan Djinovic, attempted to mislead the investigators by providing testimonies that contradicted the evidence obtained. The trio left Georgia the following day.
In response to the SUS report, the leader of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Irakli Kobakhidze, called on the US to explain why it is funding potential unrest in Georgia. The US embassy in Tbilisi did not deny providing financial support to CANVAS but stated that its activities were aimed at supporting Georgian democracy.
Later in the day, the US embassy released a statement, asserting that the accusations against CANVAS were false and misrepresented the goals of US assistance to Georgia. The embassy highlighted that its aid to Tbilisi had always been transparent. It clarified that CANVAS had been contracted by USAID more than two years ago to deliver training to advocates for better cancer treatments for children and for the rights of elderly citizens in their communities. The embassy emphasized that it would continue to support Georgian organizations that work towards securing the future determined by the people.
CANVAS, which stands for Center for Applied Nonviolent Strategies, identifies its mission as advocating for the use of nonviolent resistance to promote human rights and democracy. The group was co-founded by Slobodan Djinovic and Srdja Popovic, who were members of Otpor, a US-backed student group that played a significant role in the 2000 coup in Serbia.
It is worth noting that a similar color revolution had previously resulted in the overthrow of the Georgian government in 2003. Former Otpor activists had assisted the Georgian copycat group, Kmara, in this process. The Guardian described this strategy as an American-devised template for winning elections after the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine.
While the US embassy in Tbilisi refutes the allegations against CANVAS and maintains its support for Georgian organizations, the Georgian government continues to seek an explanation from Washington regarding the funding of potential unrest in the country. As the situation unfolds, it remains to be seen how the US-Georgia relationship will evolve and whether further investigations into CANVAS’s activities will take place.