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The News in Brief

Thursday, May 11
Georgian opposition calls for former Moscow mayor to be punished

An otherwise uneventful tourist visit to Georgia by the former mayor of Moscow was interrupted by opposition calls for him to be ‘punished’.

Word spread of Yuri Luzhkov’s visit to Georgia after priest Serafim Bit-Kharibi posted photos of the former Moscow mayor on his Facebook page.

Luzhkov is known as a staunch supporter of the independence of Georgia’s breakaway republics and has visited Abkhazia and South Ossetia on several occasions.

Two opposition parties claimed he was thereby violating a law passed after the 2008 August War which prohibits entry to the regions without passing through certain checkpoints, and called for him to be punished, Imedi TV reported.

In the photos, the ex-mayor is accompanied by his wife, billionaire businesswoman Elena Baturina, as well as friends and relatives. He arrived in Tbilisi on Sunday and told journalists that he would be departing Monday evening on his own private plane.

The largest opposition party National Movement called for the Luzhkov to be punished, while another opposition party, European Georgia, also called on the authorities to take action. A petition calling for Georgian authorities to immediately react to the ex-mayor’s alleged violation had gathered over 700 signatures Monday night.

Responding to the political furor his trip caused, he told Imedi TV that he didn’t know he had violated any law, but if so, he was sorry. While he was mayor he had had no opportunities to enjoy Georgia, he added, and the purpose of this trip was purely tourism.

The trip took him to go to Kanda, a village 40km west of Tbilisi inhabited by mostly ethnic Assyrians, and the Temple of The Thirteen Assyrian Fathers, where the travelers listened to Father Serafim’s chant in Aramaic (also performed for Pope Francis last October). The group also visit other of Georgia’s landmarks.

Violators of the Law on the Occupied Territories may be held to account next time they enter Georgia. This is a relatively rare occurrence, though. In most cases, authorities look the other way.

Violations of the law on the occupied territories, which prohibits visits to Abkhazia and South Ossetia without formal consent from Tbilisi, has only been partly enforced during its nine years of existence: 51 persons have been jailed for violating the law; a criminal offense.

“I think Georgian authorities should be more responsible in defending the country’s interests and protecting its sovereignty. Luzhkov was in the vanguard among those who stood up for the recognition of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region, who visited the territories many times, thus violating our laws,” said Sergi Kapanadze, a member of parliament for European Georgia.

But border officials had no formal cause to either stop or prosecute Yuri Luzhkov, a government spokesperson countered.

“[Luzhkov] arrived with a valid document, which didn’t contain any information about violating the law on the occupied territories,” Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Shalva Khutsishvili said.

During his tenure as Moscow mayor, Yuri Luzhkov was associated with a rapid growth and several large-scale construction projects. He was also famous for his hard line conservative views. (DF watch)

State Agency of Oil and Gas Makes an Announcement

The State Agency of Oil and Gas acting in accordance with the Georgian Law on Oil and Gas company announced an open international tender on free license blocks. The tender started on April 3 2017 and will end on May 22, at which time all bids will be opened.

The State Agency is pleased to announce that despite the steep downturn in oil and gas prices, the worldwide response has been very positive and demonstrates the attractiveness of Georgia’s investment climate and the country’s potential as an energy producer.

Indeed, numerous international companies have expressed interest in receiving the tender package, including two companies which are already investors in the Georgian energy sector, Vectra Petroleum Limited, a Hong Kong company, as well as Frontera Resources, a Cayman Islands company.

Vectra Petroleum and NauticAWT Energy Pte. Ltd., a Singapore company, recently agreed to invest USD 30 million during the first three years of their operations. They expect to increase production in the Guria and Adjara regions by drilling new wells and employing ultra-modern technologies. Frontera was an early investor in Georgian energy as it entered into a production sharing agreement already in 1997.

In a press release on April 11 2017, Frontera announced “commercial production associated with the is feasible” although technical work in order to establish feasibility of commercial production must “continue”. The State Agency, as well as the Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation, a party to the 1997 agreement, expect to receive additional information from the company.

Against this background, a Schlumberger group company signed on May 8, 2017 a farm-in agreement, with Jindal group company from India, with respect to exploration and production operations in Georgian License Blocks IX, X and XIB. A prominent American oil and gas exploration and production company also made inquiries to the State Agency in respect to offshore prospects in Georgia, further underscoring the positive growth of and interest by international companies in the country’s energy sector. (ipn)