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The News in Brief

Monday, February 18

Badri Patarkatsishvili in the memories of his contemporaries

By Besik Pipia, RIA Novosti columnist

Prominent Tbilisi citizens shared their recollections this weekend about Georgian business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, describing him as a patriot forced into exile.

Eduard Shevardnadze, ex-foreign minister of the Soviet Union and the second president of Georgia, said he personally invited Patarkatsishvili to return from Russia to his home country:

“Badri Patarkatsishvili returned to Georgia on my initiative; we gave him a residence permit and issued a passport. He had bought a house, where I was only once, at his daughter’s wedding party,” Shevardnadze said. “I once told Vladimir Putin that we sheltered and gave a passport to a person wanted in Russia. ‘Who, Berezovsky?’ asked Putin. ‘No, not Berezovsky but Badri Patarkatsishvili,’ I answered. ‘Oh, Badri,’ said Putin. “Badri is not bad, he is a good man.’

“When Badri worked in Moscow he had great influence in journalistic circles, and he was greatly respected. If a negative program was prepared about Georgia, it was enough for the Embassy of Georgia in Moscow to call him and the program would be taken off the air.

“Badri did not earn money in Tbilisi. He came here from Moscow a rich man. He had about two billion, I guess. He was loved in Georgia, as he was kind and unselfish; he helped everyone. Recently he paid attention to the demographic problem, the most acute problem that the Georgian people face now. He decided to stimulate the birth rate, paying substantial sums for the birth of each child.

“In my opinion it was a mistake when he decided to stand in the presidential elections. His emotional experience was exactly related to that moment. Then he was accused of a coup. I have read the transcripts of the records of covert negotiations. But everything is so tangled there that I could not understand anything. There was nothing said about a plot of any kind.”

MP Gocha Jojua, head of a parliamentary faction loyal to Patarkatsishvili, remembers an open, gregarious man:

“Many considered Badri Patarkatsishvili a man with a whole carriage of money. But meeting him even once was enough to see ‘a big child’ in him. He [opened] the way to his heart to any interlocutor; he was an absolutely transparent person; he spoke what he thought, but at the same time took close to his heart everything that happened around him. I met him in London the day before to discuss party matters. He lost a lot of weight, and told me he was in a good physical shape. Then he invited me for dinner. I expected roast beef and whiskey, and was very much surprised to see khashi. ‘It is a custom to wash down khashi with vodka,’ Badri said, ‘whiskey will not do’. And we were poured 100 grams of Georgian grape chacha.’”

Nona Gaprindashvili, a world chess champion, praised Patarkatsishvili for reviving Georgian sports, and pointed to Imedi TV as the wedge which separated the billionaire from the government:

“... Badri Patarkatsishvili was elected president of the [National] Olympic Committee in 2004. It should be mentioned it was [President] Mikheil Saakashvili who wanted him to take this position. The president personally asked [Patarkatsishvili] to take part in the process of reviving Georgian sport. I can say without exaggeration that Badri turned out to be the savior of Georgian sports.

“… In short, Badri managed to reanimate Georgian sport. Athletes were provided with everything necessary for full training, including unprecedented pecuniary awards. If, for instance, the country paid 25 000 dollars for each golden medal, Badri gave 225 000!

“Then something came between Badri Patarkatsishvili and Mikheil Saakashvili. And this something was Imedi TV, the channel which Patarkatsishvili owned. The authorities did not like the criticism in their coverage, though it was constructive criticism. Imedi reporters did not avoid acute topics; [they] paid attention to notorious murders, mass arrests, illegal deprivation of property, state racketeering in business…

“The Rose revolutionists seemed to like to be praised only. There were attempts from the authority’s side to intervene in the editorial policy of the TV channel, but Badri did not allow them to do so. Then, state officials offered substantial sums to buy Imedi; there were also talks about the exchange of Imedi for Georgian Railways. Then Badri told them, ‘Imedi is my offspring—and children are not sold.’” (Black Sea Press)

Patarkatsishvili inquest postponed

An inquest into the death of Georgian businessman and politician Badri Patarkatsishvili has been postponed in London awaiting the results of toxicology tests, which could take weeks, a spokesperson from the Coroners Office in Woking, UK told journalists.

Pathologist Ashley Fegan-Earl, who carried out the post mortem, said on February 15 at the inquest that Patarkatsishvili was found to have “significant coronary heart disease.”

“This was of a severity that could have resulted in a sudden and unexplained collapse and death at any time,” he said.

In a statement, relatives of the business tycoon expressed confidence in the professionalism of British police and said they will take the body to Georgia after a final conclusion on the cause of death is released. (Black Sea Press)

GUAM interview

Ahead of the 2008 GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova) summit in Tbilisi this summer, GUAM Secretary General Valery Chechelashvili talks about what the organization hopes to achieve:

What activities are planned for the summit and what documents will be signed?

Chechelashvili: The summit of the heads of GUAM member states is planned for the end of June and beginning of July in Tbilisi. In preparation for the summit a series of field meetings, sessions of the Council of National Coordinators and Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs are also scheduled.

The basic document of the summit will be the Tbilisi Declaration that will summarize the annual chairmanship of Azerbaijan in GUAM and designate priorities and objectives for Georgia’s chairmanship.

What are the perspectives of GUAM cooperation with the EU and in which directions? What steps have already been taken and what activities are planned?

We think that the EU is one of our most important partners in terms of future cooperation. The goals and objectives set in the GUAM regulations completely coincide with the goals and objectives that the EU sets in Southeast Europe, and particularly in the GUAM region.

These are based on the idea of strengthening security and stability by developing regional cooperation. All the countries are under a single political tool of the EU—the European Neighborhood Policy—through which the EU encourages regional cooperation.

GUAM is also an efficient tool for regional cooperation. We think that due to our institutional structure of cooperation we can aid the EU in its programs in the region. The most pertinent issues which can benefit from cooperation between the EU and GUAM are the fight against organized crime, energy and transport.

I shall repeat, we are ready for cooperation with any organization or country which shares the goals and objectives of GUAM, but we consider the EU to be one of our most significant partners. (Black Sea Press)