A bookstore in Yerevan has cancelled a planned presentation of the Armenian translation of a memoir written by Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia’s former president who is now an outspoken opposition figure in Ukraine.
The book recounting Saakashvili’s political activities in Georgia and Ukraine was due to be officially released in Armenia on February 7 with the event planned at the Noyan Tapan bookstore.
The shop manager, Luiza Berberian, said on Friday that she called off the presentation because she does not want to see any “political material” on sale at Noyan Tapan in principle.
“Anyone can come here and offer books to our employees,” said Berberian. “[One of the shop assistants] didn’t realize what he is doing. A copy of the book accidentally ended up on my desk and I thought it’s interesting material. But when I flipped through it I thought ‘sorry but this is not for our bookstore.’”
“Nobody put pressure on me,” she added.
The book presentation was originally planned at the state-run literary Museum of Yeghishe Charents. The museum director also cancelled it, citing “technical reasons.” She denied receiving any orders from the Armenian Culture Ministry.
The book’s Armenian translator, Mikael Nahapetian, believes, however, that the Armenian authorities are behind the cancellations. “It’s evident that there was pressure,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
An Armenian human rights activist, Vartan Harutiunian, also saw political motives, saying that the authorities in Yerevan do not to displease the Russian government which has long been extremely hostile to Saakashvili.
Saakashvili, who governed Georgia from 2004-2013, likewise alleged “Moscow’s intervention” when he reacted to the event cancellations on Facebook. “Interestingly, in Georgia Russian agents spread rumors that I am an ethnic Armenian while in Armenia they say that I am anti-Armenian,” he wrote.
Saakashvili t is also at loggerheads with the current governments of both Georgia and Ukraine. On January 5, a court in Tbilisi found him guilty of abuse of power in connection with a 2006 murder case and sentenced him in absentia to three years in prison. The ex-president rejects the charges as politically motivated.
In Ukraine, prosecutors have accused Saakashvili of abetting an alleged "criminal group" led by Ukraine's pro-Russia former President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia after his ouster in February 2014. Ukrainian authorities also claim that protests led by Saakashvili in Ukraine are part of a Russian plot against the government in Kyiv.
Saakashvili on January 3 accused Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) of being involved in the fabrication evidence presented against him by Ukrainian authorities in Kyiv's ongoing criminal trial against him.