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The News in Brief

Tuesday, March 8
UNM Holds Anti-Gazprom Human Chain Protest

Several thousand people formed a human chain in the central parts of Tbilisi on March 6 during a demonstration organized by the UNM opposition party in protest against what it calls 'dubious goals' pursued by the Georgian government in talks with Russia’s state-controlled energy giant, Gazprom.

The human chain stretched from the government headquarters close to Freedom Square to the Russian embassy building at the end of the Chavchavadze Avenue for more than five kilometres.

The UNM first announced its intention to hold the anti-Gazprom demonstration on February 24.

The Georgian government announced on March 4 a new deal with the Azerbaijani state energy company, SOCAR, over the supply of an additional 500 million cubic meters of gas from Azerbaijan, removing the need for additional volumes of gas from Gazprom.

In addition, Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze said on March 5 that Georgia and Gazprom agreed in principle to keep the existing gas transit terms and pay Georgia 10% of all Russian gas transported to Armenia via Georgia.

Gazprom wanted to monetize the transit fee and pay cash, but in this case Georgia would not receive enough cash to buy the same amount of gas it is now receiving as a transit fee; the country would then be required to buy more gas from Gazprom. But after announcing the deal over additional gas supplies from Azerbaijan, Energy Minister Kaladze said on March 4 that there was “no need for additional volumes of gas” from Russia at this stage.

In an attempt to claim credit for these deals, the UNM leaders said that their “public protest” against possible increase of share of Gazprom’s gas in country’s gas supplies forced the government to maintain existing transit terms with Gazprom and to negotiate additional gas supplies from Azerbaijan.

“For months the authorities have been telling lies to the people, inventing various pretexts to achieve the entry of Gazprom into Georgia,” MP Davit Bakradze, the leader of the UNM parliamentary minority group, said on March 6. “I am sure that after today’s rally the government will not dare to strike an agreement different from [the one that the country currently has].”

“The fact that we have forced the government to say no to Gazprom actually means that this [protest] rally has almost achieved its goal – I say ‘almost’ because the eventual goal will be achieved when we finally and firmly ascertain that we managed to make the government to say no to Georgia’s return back to influence and darkness of Russia’s Gazprom,” he said.

Commenting on UNM’s protest rally, Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli said on March 6 that it was like “pushing against an open door.”

“Nothing that would necessitate holding such a rally is happening in the country,” she said.

We are expecting very serious investments - the Minister of Finance

The Finance Minister is anticipating a surge of investments in the private sector, within the fields of energy, transportation and communications, as well as in the construction of new tourist facilities.

”We can say that a revolutionary project been launched in Georgia in the form of the Anaklia Port,” he stated.

In addition, the state is carrying out serious investments in infrastructure and works in this direction. Recently, the donors' conference has finished, where it was decided that the construction of the Khashuri-Zestaponi highway will be started.

“This evening, an agreement will be signed on financing the construction of one of the sections together with the Japanese. So, there are serious plans, the implementation of which will undoubtedly contribute to the country's economic development,” he stated.