US diplomats: accusations of drug overdose tactic of autocratic governments following death of TV Pirveli cameraman

People pay tribute to deceased TV Pirveli cameraman Lekso Lashkarava in front of the Georgian parliament. Photo: Nino Alavidze/, 16 Jul 2021 - 19:31, Tbilisi,Georgia

Former US ambassadors to Georgia William Courtney and Kenneth Ialovich have responded to the death of TV Pirveli cameraman Lekso Lashkarava and noted that the accusation of a drug overdose as the possible reason behind his death is a tactic used by autocratic governments. 

Lashkarava was violently attacked by right-wing counter protesters of the Tbilisi Pride march on July 5 and found dead at home later on July 11. 

The Interior Ministry of Georgia connected the death of Lashkarava with drugs by publishing video footage from the day before his death, in which Lashkarava’s route with a friend to Ponichala - a suburb of Tbilisi - was recorded. 

In an interview with the Georgian Bureau of Voice of America (VOA) William Courtney and Kenneth Ialovich said that after Lekso Lashkarava's death, the government's response was not in line with reality. 

William Courtney, the current Adjunct Senior Fellow of Rand Corporation, said that naming drug overdose as the probable cause of death of Lekso Lashkarava most likely is a false accusation. 

In autocratic societies, false accusations of drug use are often made against people in opposition to them. I am reminded of one example from Moscow, where an investigative journalist, Ivan Golunov, was accused of drug use. Several newspapers then defended the journalist and he was released. This is not the action we expect from Georgia. The West sees Georgia as a growing democracy, and such behaviour is characteristic of autocratic governments,” said Courtney.