President Saakashvili’s spokesperson said on Tuesday, that a decision to strip billionaire-turned-politician, Bidzina Ivanishvili, of his Georgian citizenship was fully in line with the law.
“I want to assure you, that from the legal point of view all the issues are in line with the Georgian laws and the decision has been made based on conclusions by [the Civil Registry Agency at the] Georgian Ministry of Justice. That’s all I can say at this stage,” Manana Manjgaladze said, adding that Ivanishvili had the right to apply for citizenship to the President.
Ivanishvili’s lawyer, Eka Beselia, said last week that the presidential order stripping billionaire of his Georgian citizenship would be appealed to the court. She said on October 18, that she had not yet received from the Civil Registry Agency papers based on which President Saakashvili signed an order stripping Ivanishvili of his citizenship.
Ivanishvili told Reuters, that in August, 2008 Russia carried out “unheard-of aggression” against Georgia, but said Saakashvili's reckless foreign policy had provoked the conflict. He also said, that Georgia should find a role that is “comfortable for the United States and Europe, and acceptable for Russia.” He said Russia was not “the worst example of an undemocratic state” and Russia’s PM Vladimir Putin, who plans to return as the President in next year’s elections, was a popular leader in Russia.
“I will have to sit at table to try to sort out relations with whom the Russian people will elect… The Russian people like this man [Putin]. It's their business, their choice, although a more democratic Russia would be more interesting for Europe and for the United States,” he said. “It's very likely that the next Russian government will launch a fight against corruption, will seek a rapprochement with the West and implement real democratic reforms.”
A ruling party lawmaker, Giorgi Gabashvili, said on October 17, that while he was of positive views about Ivanishvili’s charitable activities, “the same can not be said about his political views.”
“When a person [referring to Ivanishvili] expects that Putin will carry out democratic reforms, will fight corruption and seek a rapprochement with the West - either he has no idea whatsoever what he is talking about and has no idea at all about the politics or he really thinks that his country, Georgia, can be exchanged on Rossiyskiy Kredit,” MP Gabashvili said referring to Ivanishvili's bank, which he established in early 90s and which he now intends to sell along with rest of his businesses in Russia.
“Mr. Ivanishvili and Mr. Putin will receive a clear signal that it's not the case. Georgian citizens, Georgian votes and the Georgian political process are not for sale. I believe less that Mr. Ivanishvili is naive and that he does not know that Putin can't be either democrat, corruption fighter or the one who will seek rapprochement with the West; I believe more that this project of Ivanishvili is related with the interests of Putin,” MP Gabashvili said.
The same line of linking Ivanishvili with Russian PM’s interests was the main focus of reports in Georgia’s three major nationwide broadcasters with one of them interpreting Ivanishvili’s remarks as “actually welcoming” Putin’s return to the Kremlin, another one saying that the billionaire has “large sympathies” towards Putin and the third one saying that Ivanishvili “continues the Kremlin policy.”
A report in Rustavi 2 TV’s main news bulletin on October 17 said: Ivanishvili “exactly knows that his foreign policy priority will be Russia and relations with Putin”; the same report then said: “Ivanishvili’s sympathies towards Putin are so large that he believes Putin will defeat corruption and carry out serious democratic reforms.”
Imedi TV’s news report said: “Ivanishvili has actually become the only one – perhaps not countering Chavez and Gaddafi – who welcomed Putin’s third term presidency. But he went even beyond that by calling Putin a reformer and even used a word ‘democracy’ while speaking about him [Putin].”
In a separate program also on the Imedi TV last week, Ivanishvili was described as “Georgian opposition’s Russian Fantômas” – a reference to a French fictional crime character and a master of disguise, popular from films and serialized novels.
Georgian Public Broadcaster’s main news bulletin said on October 17: “Ivanishvili does not describe Russia as an occupant country, continues the Kremlin policy and states that the Georgian authorities are responsible for the [August] war… and believes that Putin will defeat corruption in Russia and develop democracy.”