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The Event of the Season: Ivanishvili invites the Press

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, November 2
The first live broadcast of Georgian businessman and politician, Bidzina Ivanishvili, created an enormous interest all over the country on Tuesday. Nearly 200 media representatives participated in the press conference, all eager to get answers to those questions that "Georgian society is interested in". Most of Georgia's media was dubbed by Ivanishvili as "owned and controlled by the current Government" and indeed they often put the accent on Ivanishvili's Russian contacts, trying to learn whether Ivanishvili is really a "Russian project" or "Someone trying to save the state from authoritarianism."

Ivanishvili's first comments were related to media and he again underlined that the main aim of his coming to politics—"which was not an easy or only a positive decision for him personally and for his family—" was to ensure that media, the courts and all vitally important Georgian institutions would become free from pressure. "My target is to create a really democratic state and not the facade which it is now under the current leadership of Georgia."

As Ivanishvili claimed, inner and outer factors leading to coexistence should create such a state. "We should deepen our relationship with the United States, and as for NATO , the current authorities have done their best to postpone Georgia's participation in the organization as far into the future as possible." However NATO remains on his agenda, as it seems the billionaire also supports Georgia's participation in peace missions. "I think that collaboration with powerful foreign states in this field is a right course. As for how many soldiers should participate in operations it should be decided after proper discussions... In foreign relations Russia also has a significant position, however their interests coincide with international interests too, it seems." From an economic point of view Russia is the object of interest of the whole world and WTO issues have confirmed this. The international community is eager to get into Russian markets, while he believes Georgia lost the market even before the war due to the authorities' senseless policy. He underlined that the decision made for joining WTO brings no profit for Georgia, and Saakashvili was forced to agree on conditions that Russia had been wanting for two years. He feels that the normalization of relations with Russia, especially "from the point of view of Georgian occupied regions and the economic advance of Georgia" is important.

Who is the occupier and who started the war? He was asked. This question was voiced by several during the press conference. "Russia is the occupier and 20 % of Georgian territory is being occupied by them," Ivanishvili said. As for who initiated the war, Ivanishvili presented international documents--including the one written by Heidi Tagliavini and a resolution signed even by the Georgian side--stating that Georgians were the first to fire. "Ossetians provoked Georgia a lot, but instead of informing the international community and inviting them to evaluate the reality, Saakashvili acted absolutely inappropriately and launched an attack on Tskhinvali. The international community knows all this very well though the current authorities are trying-- through their controlled media--to fool Georgians into thinking that Russians started the war and that Georgians won it." However Ivanishvili underlined that "the Georgian people are sensible and they can understand everything very well."

Ivanishvili responded to the question that Georgian authorities have raised recently about whether he financed General Lebed , who killed Georgian youth in April 9, 1989. He said "I did not finance Lebed , but I financed the election campaign of former Russian President, Boris Eltsin, and this was a very important step. After his coming to power communist reality could not be introduced again. This was very important for Georgia, to be safe from Soviet threats."

The issue of his Georgian citizenship was touched on and he said he believes that "due to the international community and Georgian society," he will be able to participate in the elections; "however, if it does not happen like this there are other plans being elaborated, and we will definitely come to power ." Ivanishvili underlined the fact that after his coming to power, the impeachment of Saakashvili would be on the agenda.

Majority Representative Nugzar Tsiklauri told The Messenger, "The press conference has very clearly revealed the real face of Ivanishvili and confirmed one more time that the man is sent and controlled by Russians...despite our hope that he would change his words about Georgia starting the war, he went even farther and blamed the current authorities for the economic blockade. This is unimaginable. I think that all his statements will help the Georgian people find solutions" Tsiklauri added that the fact of how "brutally" the journalists were checked before attending the press conference and the chaos during the conference also revealed what kind of political figure Ivanishvili might be." He also mentioned that during the press conference Ivanishvili acted like the "Prosecutor of the Georgian media and of Georgian society."

"A very logic and developed position" was the brief description given about Ivanishvili's press conference by analyst Giorgi Khutsishvili for The Messenger. "It was not only a businessman's press conference, it was something very deep and sensible, a press conference given by a politician who is aware of his civil duties, knows what he says and how to do the job. That is my impression of the man from the conference today."