Saakashvili Accuses Georgia’s ex-PM of Lying About Gazprom Assets

ODESSA, Ukraine – Georgia’s former President Mikheil Saakashvili accused the country’s billionaire ex-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili of lying about his personal holdings in Russian state energy giant Gazprom.

“Ivanishvili is the country’s leading pro-Russian citizen as the main private shareholder of Gazprom,” Saakashvili said in a televised interview with Georgian media outlet Rustavi-2. He added than Ivanishvili continues to deceive the population regarding his business ties to Russia.

An eccentric oligarch worth an estimated $5 billion and the founder of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition, Ivanishvili made his fortune inbanking, pharmacy, real estate in Russia during the chaotic early 1990s as the country struggled to privatize following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Ivanishvili had, at one point, publicly owned a 1 per cent share in Gazprom. Since entering national politics in 2011, he has repeatedly claimed to have sold-off two thirds of his Russian assets.

The European Council of Foreign Relations, however, has repeatedly accused Ivanishivili of failing to publicly disclose the extent of his personal business interests in Russia, including his current connections to Gazprom.

Since coming to power in 2012, Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream have sought to forge closer and friendlier relations with Moscow.

Saakashvili, who currently serves as the appointed governor of Ukraine’s Odessa Region, lashed out at the Georgian Dream, calling the government ungrateful for entering into negotiations with Gazprom after neighboring Azerbaijan provided Georgia with discounted natural gas for more than a decade.

“In 2005, Georgia was without gas. Azerbaijan came to our aid and provided us with gas. How can we forget? The current government is incredibly ungrateful,” said Saakashvili.

Commenting on his current political ambitions in Ukraine, Saakashvili said he has no designs on becoming the country’s prime minister. He instead hopes to work with pro-Western Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in his efforts to modernize the country and steer it towards EU and NATO membership.

Saakashvili has been widely rumored as a replacement for Ukraine’s embattled current Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, who narrowly survived a no-confidence vote by the country’s Verkhovna Rada on February 16.

By Zviad Adzinbaia

Edited by Nicholas Waller

Photo credit:

22 February 2016 13:25