Ruling party lawmakers said on November 8, that the Kremlin-orchestrated attempts were underway in Georgia to create “a new pro-Russian political center” around billionaire-turned-politician Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Speaking at Parliament session on November 8 the parliamentary majority leader, Petre Tsiskarishvili, said Ivanishvili was Russia’s “last hope”, who was trying to throw Georgia back into the past.
Debates on Ivanishvili in the Parliament were triggered after an opposition lawmaker, Jondi Bagaturia, said sort of sarcastically that he “managed to find Putin’s agent”; he was saying it waving a printed photo showing Georgia’s ex-economy minister and former state minister in charge of reforms Kakha Bendukidze shaking hand with Vladimir Putin. Bendukidze, who now runs Tbilisi-based Free University and who like Ivanishvili amassed wealth in Russia in 1990s, has recently often been reminded to the authorities by the opponents after the ruling party launched accusing Ivanishvili of being “the Kremlin’s project.”
“Don’t call people with dissent opinion Russia’s agents; look for the agents among you,” MP Bagaturia told ruling party lawmakers.
“It’s not about agents and spies; it’s about ideological” differences between Ivanishvili and Bendukidze, MP Petre Tsiskarishvili responded. “These two men are diametrically opposed – Bendukidze who serves the Georgian deed and [Ivanishvili], who has been sent to Georgia by Moscow with big bag of money as a last hope to somehow change situation in Georgia and to turn Georgia’s foreign priorities towards North.”
He said that after multiple failed attempts - among them economic embargo, street protest rallies and the August war - to undermine the Georgian state Russia was now pinning its “last hope” on Ivanishvili.
“Just imagine a Jewish man running his businesses in any of the Israel’s adversary state… returning [to Israel], demanding to rule the political processes… Do you think he could have stayed in Israel after making such statements?.. Would he still have [the Israeli] citizenship? Would he be able to freely operate in the political and public life?” MP Tsiskarishvili said.
“Our country is very democratic, allowing this person [referring to Ivanishvili] everything. The law has deprived him his Georgian citizenship and not the authorities, otherwise he is free in his activities. He has [access] to the media, freedom of movement,” he said.
Another ruling party lawmaker, Rati Samkurashvili, said during the same session that the archive photo, shown by MP Bagaturia, was from the pre-August war period, when “Georgia was ready for cooperation with Putin, until Russia launched open aggression against Georgia.”
Bidzina Ivanishvili, responding to the allegations about his Russian ties, said at a news conference on November 1, that accusing him of being the Kremlin stooge was the only thing the authorities could do because “they simply have nothing else” to say. “That’s because of one simple reason – I have never done anything illegal,” Ivanishvili said.
Ruling party lawmakers argued that Ivanishvili’s pro-Russian sentiments were demonstrated while blaming Georgia for triggering off war with Russia in August, 2008 and accusing Georgia of provoking Russia in imposing economic embargo in 2006. The ruling party MPs also argued that Ivanishvili was trying to please Putin by avoiding any tough remarks against him, even expressing hope that Russia’s next government will launch democratic reforms and rapprochement with the West.