US Congressman Wants State Dept, Banks to Freeze Ivanishvili’s Assets

WASHINGTON D.C. - Congressman Steve Russell on Thursday warned on the floor of the US House of Representatives that Georgia’s upcoming October elections are under a fundamental threat from the corrupt influence of Russia.

In his short speech, the Republican congressman said Russia remained Georgia’s greatest security threat and demanded that the United States Treasury Department and the West’s largest banks freeze Georgia’s former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s vast financial assets for having carried out Moscow’s plan to destabilize the country.

“Since Georgia reasserted her independence from Russia in 1991, the country’s struggles have not been easy,” Russell said.

Russell said Russia attempts to maintain influence over the post-Soviet space by undermining the sovereignty of Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and the three Baltic countries through economic and military pressure as well as via pro-Moscow governments that are keen to advance Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to strengthen Moscow’s grip over territories in once controlled.

Russell was quick to single out Ivanishvili as one of Putin’s most trusted allies in the region.

In echoes of the fraudulent 2003 elections that led to Georgia’s Rose Revolution and the ouster of pro-Russian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Russell accused the Kremlin of using Ivanishvili as an agent charged with guaranteeing that the October parliamentary elections go Moscow’s way.

Ivanishvili - the country’s richest man, worth an estimated USD 5 billion - has been dogged by accusations that he is a pro-Russian politician. Though born into poverty in western Georgia’s Imereti Region, Ivanishvili spent most of his adult life in Moscow where he made his vast fortune in the chaotic privatization period immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Despite having returned to Georgia nearly a decade ago, Ivanishvili retains close ties to his former associates in Moscow’s private and government sector.

“Russia has tried to infiltrate Georgia’s political process by establishing pro-Moscow proxies in the government. They expect them to hand over everything to the Kremlin on a silver platter. Bidzina Ivanishvili is the main player in the Kremlin’s infiltration strategy. He is a close ally of Vladimir Putin and has been charged with finding a way to rig the election like in 2003. They’ll try to buy votes and marginalize Georgia’s political opposition to achieve their goals,” Russell said.

By Tamar Svanidze
Edited by Nicholas Waller

22 April 2016 22:44