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PM denies opposition leader’s accusations over alienation of Black Sea Internet cable

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, February 10
The Prime Minister of Georgia has rejected speculation that Georgia’s online provider - Caucasus online - intends to sell the Black Sea cable and land infrastructure to VimpelCom, a Russian company.

Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili made the statement in response to the leader of the Free Democrats (FD) opposition party, Irakli Alasania, who said a couple of days ago that the strategic fiber optic cable might come under Russian control.

Alasania stressed that negotiations were underway that would result in the the alienation of the channel, which is linked to Europe and gives Georgia its Internet connection.

“I have already spoken with the National Regulatory Commission and with VimpelCom representatives within the Davos Economic Forum,” Kvirikashvili said.

“VimpelCom intends to purchase a retail segment, which is inside the country. I would myself be against any alienation of our infrastructure. VimpelCom does not plan to purchase the Black Sea fiber optic cable infrastructure and any other core infrastructure. It is an ordinary act of inter-state business, creating no threats, “the PM said.

Caucasus Online has also made a special statement, taking “public interest into account”.

The company said that there were negotiations with several major telecommunication companies on the purchase of a retail segment, including VimpelCom and MagtiCom.

“Selling the Black Sea cable and the land infrastructure is not the subject of any negotiations. The process is transparent and the list of the company's assets, which may be sold, has been sent to the Georgian National Communications Commission, as required by the provisions of the Commission. The list does not include the Black Sea cable and therefore, it is not the part of any commercial deal,” said Caucasus Online’s statement.

VimpelCom Ltd. is a global provider of telecommunication services registered in Bermuda and headquartered in Amsterdam; however, the company’s roots are in Russia.

Now it is the sixth largest mobile network operator with 217 million customers. Most of the company's revenue comes from Russia (39%) and Italy (31%).

VimpelCom's brands include Beeline (in Russia and the CIS), Kyivstar (in Ukraine), Wind (in Italy and Greece), Djezzy (in Algeria), Mobilink (in Pakistan), Banglalink (in Bangladesh), and others.