NUGZAR SADJAYA, SHEVARDNADZE’S CLOSEST CONFIDANT, COMMITS SUICIDE

By Irakly Areshidze (02/27/2002 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Nugzar Sadjaya, the
Chairman of Georgia’s National Security Council and President Eduard
Shevardnadze’s closest ally and confidant, apparently shot himself in his
office at the State Chancellery at approximately 11:30 a.m. on Monday, 25
February 2002, local time. Sadjaya exercised considerable control over
Georgia’s power ministries.  His
death sent the political scene into chaos, and neither the long nor short-term
implications of his passing were immediately clear. yes">  

In recent weeks,
the Georgian press has featured rampant speculations about the 60-years old
Sadjaya, who had served the President closely for over a decade. 
Parliament Deputy Boris Kakubava accused Sajaya of masterminding the
murder of former Georgian President Zviad Gamsakurdia (who was overthrown in
1991) and of plotting an assassination of Aslan Abashidze, the leader of the
autonomous republic of Ajaria.  In
an interview with the newspaper Kronika
published on Monday morning, Kakubava declared that he would have no choice
but to bring out 100,000 refugees into the streets on April 8, with the demand
of having the President resign, if Sadjaya were not fired. Kakubava is a
member of the Parliamentary Faction “Revival,” which is beholden to
Abashidze. yes">  According to the Prime News Agency, Revival distanced itself
from Kakubava’s allegations on Tuesday, claiming that he contacted the mass
media against the advice of the Faction’s leaders.

Kronika
and another popular newspaper, The normal">Georgian Times, also published interviews with Tengiz Kitovani,
former Georgian Defense Minister who led the coup against Gamsakurdia, with
damaging allegations about Sadjaya.  In
the interview with Kronika, Kitovani,
who lives in Moscow and is said to have close ties with Russian security
services, accused Sadjaya of being homosexual. Kitovani made similar
allegations to The Georgian Times.
He also declared that Sadjaya was implicated in the murder of Giorgi Sanaya,
an anchor with the Rustavi-2 television channel who was found dead in his
apartment last summer.  

Some reports in the
immediate aftermath of the suicide speculated that the pressure of these
allegations had become too much for Sadjaya, who had asked for permission from
the President to resign over a week ago, to bear. President Shevardnadze
echoed these views, stating that the suicide “was a decision reached after
moral terror.”  Meanwhile,
Minister of State Security Valeri Khaburzania declared on Monday that the
suicide is connected with “forces active in Russia” intent on coming to
power in Georgia and told Channel One Television that events leading to the
suicide were “classical schemes of activities by special [intelligence]
forces.”  

However, for
Georgian journalists, allegations about Sadjaya’s homosexuality were not
new, creating doubt on that as an explanation for the suicide. Similar claims,
which are very damaging in Georgia’s religiously conservative society, have
been made about other politicians, including former Parliamentary Speaker
Zurab Zhvania. Meanwhile, Kakubava’s claims did not amount to anything
serious. As a result, many journalists are investigating potentially more
complex reasons for the apparent suicide. Journalist Ani Mosidze of the
newspaper Akhali Taoba (“New
Generation”) claimed that opponents may have placed such damaging
documentation in front of Sadjaya that he chose to kill himself rather than
see them become public. In a different article, the newspaper also reported
that Sadjaya first tried to assassinate himself on 21 February 2002, but was
walked in on by associates.  

Various scenarios
were offered on Monday and Tuesday about the political implications of the
suicide. Akhali Taoba wrote that the
“Sadjaya team” is now leaderless, will slowly become weak and will
eventually lose influence.  Which
if any of Georgia’s three main political forces (Abashidze’s group, the
Zhvania-Saakashvili ‘team’, and the New Rights Party) would be
strengthened by this was not clear.  One
view presented to the author by an analyst in Tbilisi argued that Zhvania’s
team would grow in power around Shevardnadze. According to the February 25
issue of Kronika, Zurab Zhvania
tried to reach an alliance with Sadjaya last year, but was rebuffed. yes">  Another view argued that Shevardnadze would not be inclined
to deal with Zhvania and Saakashvili, who have been continually trying to
destabilize the President’s rule for the last six months, and would instead
look for other allies who are more democratic and are not as tainted in the
eyes of the people. This would necessarily exclude Abashidze, possibly leaving
the New Rights Party, which has been building strength in Tbilisi and the
nation’s districts, as the remaining alternative. yes">  

Irakly Areshidze