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UNM Says Batumi Councillor Faced Pressure Before Death

Opposition United National Movement party claimed today that recently deceased elected UNM majoritarian member in the contested Batumi City Council, Nugzar Putkaradze, was being pressured on behalf of the ruling Georgian Dream party to switch sides. The UNM published an audio recording purporting to confirm the accusation.

At today’s special briefing Giorgi Kirtadze, UNM member, said Putkaradze, who suffered from diabetes, died from high blood sugar, possibly caused by nervousness over the alleged pressure.

He claimed two Aslan Abashidze-era law enforcement officials – Vazha Tabagidze and Badri Bakuridze – were tasked by the father of Adjara Government Head Tornike Rizhvadze to exert said pressure on Putkaradze.

According to Kirtadze, the two men held several meetings with Kirtadze and were offering USD 100,000 – of which they would take back 20,000 – for him to quit the opposition party and work as an independent member who would align with the GD. He said Putkaradze was informing him about the talks, and covertly recorded one of the conversations.

Prior to Putkaradze’s passing, in Batumi Sakrebulo, GD had 16 members, UNM had 15, ex-PM Gakharia’s For Georgia had 2 and Lelo -1. One member was independent, having quit the For Georgia party. The GD would need two members’ support to form a majority and elect a Sakrebulo chair. MORE

In the 46-minute-long audio recording, a man, supposedly Bakuridze can be heard telling Putkaradze that “we need neutrality. Neutrality means you are neither on one side nor on the other. And they need your support.” He can be heard continuing that this would mean “agreeing on positions” in the Sakrebulo.

The man does not explicitly identify the person that tasked him to approach Putkaradze, and can be heard saying he is speaking on behalf of “our brother [In colloquial language brother could also mean a male friend].”

The man can be heard deflecting several times Putkaradze’s question as to who had tasked him to relay the offer.

In the covertly recorded audio, Putkaradze supposedly said he would act in a way that would not damage either side, noting he would not become independent but would throw support to the GD in some issues when needed.

The deceased Sakrebulo member-elect also supposedly noted that he recently suffered from a serious heart condition and would require a cardiac shunt.

The Interior Ministry refused to comment on Civil.ge‘s inquiry if a probe will be launched about the accusations. The Georgian Dream party also declined to comment on the report.

After the UNM had set the briefing for today, Adjara Government Head Tornike Rizhvadze said he “could not comment on the announced recordings and their contents.” “If my family member does not feature in the recording I will demand an apology from everyone,” he warned.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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