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Georgia’s ex-defense minister maintains he financed 2003 Rose Revolution

On November 23, 2003, President Eduard Shevardnadze stepped down
Irakli Okruashvili EPA/ITAR-TASS
Irakli Okruashvili

TBILISI, July 22. /TASS/. Georgia’s former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, the founder and the leader of the Victorious Georgia Party, maintained at a briefing on Monday that he had financed the 2003 Rose Revolution that swept Mikhail Saakashvili to power.

"Here you are, building different conspiracy theories that the Rose Revolution of 2003 was allegedly financed by Soros [American philanthropist — TASS] or Bidzina Ivanishvili [the founder and chair of the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party]. The whole campaign of 2003, including the Rose Revolution, was financed by me," Okruashvili stated.

In November 2003, Georgia held a parliamentary election. The opposition, led by Mikhail Saakashvili, Nino Burdzhanadze and Zurab Zhvania, claimed the election had been rigged, which resulted in the so-called "Revolution of Roses." Consequently, the opposition leaders demanded the president’s resignation. On November 23, 2003, President Eduard Shevardnadze stepped down.

Okruashvili played one of the key roles in the Rose Revolution, and until 2006 he was an associate of Saakashvili, holding different government posts. From June 2004 to December 2004, Okruashvili was Interior Minister, while from December 2004 to November 2006 — Defense Minister. Then, he worked for a month as Economics Minister, after which the politician announced he was resigning and going into opposition to Saakashvili.

In particular, in 2007, Okruashavili lashed out at the president, after which he was arrested on corruption charges. After being released on bail, Okruashvili left Georgia and was sentenced in absentia to 11 years in prison on the charges of "bribery on a massive scale." In April 2008, he got political asylum in France. After the change of power in Georgia in 2012, all accusations against him were lifted, and he was allowed to return home.