Conflicting Reports on Russian Tycoon Meeting Georgian PM

Sanctioned Russian oligarch Vladimir Yevtushenkov reportedly confirmed today that his associate Ali Uzdenov met Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in March, while his affiliate, businessman David Khidasheli denied the claim.  

The conflicting reports came after two recordings emerged purporting to show Yevtushenkov, former majority stakeholder of Sistema JSFC, and Georgian billionaire and ruling Georgian Dream founder Bidzina Ivanishvili discussing business dealings amid the war in Ukraine. Ivanishvili supposedly told the oligarch that he had instructed Uzdenov and Khidasheli to meet PM Garibashvili.

Government-critical Formula TV cited Yevtushenkov as saying that Uzdenov indeed visited Georgia and met the Prime Minister, albeit suggesting the two discussed vacations.

He refused to comment as to what the trip’s purpose was businesswise and denied the visit had any political objectives. The sanctioned oligarch also denied having any business relations with Ivanishvili, claiming they are merely friends.

Commenting on the disseminated audios, Yevtushenkov reportedly claimed there have been “millions” of recordings published and many of them are fake.

Also on April 26, pro-government Imedi TV published a statement delivered by businessman David Khidasheli, who confirmed that he held meetings in Georgia alongside Uzdenov, but only with businessmen.

“I communicated with the PM, asked for a meeting but the PM redirected us to the business sector,” Khidasheli claimed. He also denied holding any meetings with Bidzina Ivanishvili. 

Khidasheli, a former executive at the Sistema JSFC, further claimed that he was working with Uzdenov on the possibility of Georgia importing wheat from Russia with its earnings from wine export to Moscow. “Meetings with the business sector did not conclude with any specific agreement or a result,” he added, however.

Besides, the businessman further said that he himself plans to establish a winemaking consortium to “significantly increase the export of wine.” 

The Georgian Dream Government previously came under fire after Ukraine’s Defense Ministry Intelligence claimed on April 4 that the Georgian authorities had allowed Russia to establish a smuggling route through its territory.

GD officials denied the accusation, with PM Garibashvili vowing on April 8 that Georgia will never allow the transit of sanctioned goods through its territory. 

While the authorities have pledged compliance with the international sanctions regime against Russia, Tbilisi has not imposed bilateral sanctions against the country over the bloody invasion of Ukraine.

The GD Government’s clear-cut refusal of imposing sanctions, among others, put a strain on relations between Kyiv and Tbilisi amid the war, with Ukraine recalling its ambassador from the country.

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