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Russian tycoon sure he will be President of Georgia

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, June 1
Ethnic Georgian businessman Alexander Ebralidze has confirmed that he plans to be elected the next Georgian President.

Ebralidze held a press conference in Moscow on May 29, where he announced that despite the fact he is a Russian citizen he still wants to run for the Georgian Presidency. Ebralidze stated that he will lead Georgia towards European integration while however keeping “friendly relations” with Russia. He underlined that ensuring the territorial integrity of the country is one of his main goals.

The Georgian authorities have accused Ebralidze of organising the mutiny at the Mukhrovani military base in Georgia on May 5. His official representative Yuri Novolodsky has announced that Ebralidze feels “abused” by these accusations and will sue the Georgian Government over them at the Strasbourg Court if Tbilisi is not able to prove them. Speaking in Tbilisi, Novolodsky also stated that Ebralidze is going to come to Georgia and participate in the next Presidential elections.

Batumi-born Alexander Ebralidze moved to Russia in 1971. The Russian media has reported that before starting his successful businesses Ebralidze was twice arrested, and sentenced to several years in jail, for “armed robbery and hooliganism.” His fortune is assessed by different sources as being between USD 250 million and USD 500 million. Ebralidze is the President of the World Congress of Peoples of Georgia, a movement uniting Georgian emigrants in Russia and other countries. Speaking at an online press conference on April 2009, Ebralidze stated that he would come to Tbilisi in May-June 2009 and claim Georgian citizenship. “In June we will open a branch [of the World Congress of Peoples of Georgia] in Tbilisi, we will create a website, and we will start to publish a newspaper. We will also purchase a TV channel and radio station,” said Ebralidze.

“My goal is securing the territorial integrity of Georgia,” stated Ebralidze on May 29. “That is my goal; neither the Presidency, nor the purchase of media outlets in Georgia; the media, the Presidency or other steps – these are simply means for achieving this goal,” he said.

Georgian experts are quite sceptical about the tycoon’s chances of being elected President. “I don’t know him personally, however I think that his chances are close to zero,” stated Zurab Abashidze, the former Georgian envoy to Russia. “Big money is not enough to make someone President,” added Abashidze, speaking to The Messenger on May 31. According to Georgian law, no one can stand for the Presidency unless they have lived in Georgia for at least 15 years prior to their nomination. Asked how he planned to run for the Presidency when he does not even have a Georgian passport, the businessman responded: “Remember this question. When I become President of Georgia, I will ask you: do you remember that question?”