Audio alleged to be a recording of Nika Melia, the chair of Georgia’s opposition United National Movement (UNM), criticising and using obscene language against former president Mikheil Saakashvili, has been circulating on Georgian social media since Monday. The UNM has dismissed the recording as ‘fabricated’.
The origin and authenticity of the 44-second recording, alleged to date to 2021, remains unconfirmed.
While Melia does not name the individual he describes as ‘such a dick’, Georgian media and political commentators have assumed that Melia is referring to the third president of Georgia and founder of the UNM, Mikheil Saakashvili.
Saakashvili is currently imprisoned in Georgia, and undergoing treatment for health issues that followed a prolonged hunger strike.
In the recording, the voice alleged to be Melia’s says that he was told that if he entered parliament, he would not be allowed to be that person’s choice of candidate for mayor of Tbilisi.
‘ “You think that’s why I’m in this party now?” I told [that person], “why are you blackmailing me? […] I won’t let you get away with it.” What a dick, a dick, fuck his mother, such a dick’, the voice says.
The speaker also adds that this was just ‘one of ten [such] cases’, and that he was ‘fucking shocked’.
‘I said, “how many thousands of people do you need to meet you in Tbilisi for you to come?” ’, the voice continues.
Prior to Georgia’s local government elections in October 2021, Mikheil Saakashvili had been heading Ukraine’s National Reform Council, periodically announcing that he intended to return to Georgia.
Saakashvili entered Georgia on 29 September, according to Georgia’s prosecutor’s office, but announced his presence in the country and was arrested on 1 October, the day before the elections.
Sound cuts in the audio recording, which is believed to have been recorded before the October 2021 local government elections, suggest that it may have been edited or spliced together, raising doubts about its authenticity.
‘This is all nonsense, and now is not the time’
UNM member Eka Kherkheulidze said on TV Pirveli on 14 December 2022 that she had heard a ‘fabricated’ recording in which Nika Melia appeared to speak about Mikheil Saakashvili using ‘unpleasant terminology’, but did not specify the source of the recording.
Bacho Dolidze, also a UNM member, said to reporters on 10 January that party members had known about the existence of the recording ‘for a month and a half’, stating it was a ‘fabrication’.
According to Levan Khabeishvili, a leading UNM member currently running against Melia for the position of party chair, the recording had ‘the handwriting of “Russian Dream” ’ on it, a reference to the idea that Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, is pro-Russian or Russia-allied. He added that the recording ‘serves to incite conflict, division, [and] slander’, and urged people not to distribute or react to it.
Mikheil Saakashvili’s lawyer, Shalva Khachapuridze, claimed that the former president became indignant when he heard about the recordings.
‘This is all nonsense, and now is not the time’, said Saakashvili, according to Khachapuridze.
A UNM representative told OC Media that Nika Melia would not be making a statement regarding the audio recording.