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The Daily Beat: 13 February

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili is visiting the United Arab Emirates, where he addressed the World Government Summit and held several bilateral meetings with high-ranking local officials. In his speech, Irakli Garibashvili emphasized that his government has made Georgia “one of the best places in the world to do business” by offering one of the most competitive conditions for international firms to expand their businesses. Georgia is to be turned into a “multi-dimensional hub” by investing heavily in infrastructure projects such as the Anaklia Deep Sea Port, East-West Highway, and Airport Expansion Program, the prime minister said in Dubai.

While the prime minister was loud and proud of his economic achievements in Dubai, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova reminded him of the fragile peace, urging him to sign non-use-of-force pacts with occupation regimes in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali. The signature of non-use-of-force treaties by Georgia is of particular importance to ensuring regional security, according to Zakharova. Georgia has unilaterally committed itself to the non-use-of-force. It is ready to sign an appropriate binding document with Russia, while Russia insists on doing so with proxy regimes.

Police opened a theft case in connection with artist Sandro Sulaberidze who allegedly removed his painting at the National Gallery, leaving in its place a spray-painted slogan on a wall: “Art is alive and independent.” Police involvement sparked protests from cultural workers and some members of the public. Supporters of the artist organized a Sunday rally in solidarity with the artist on Rustaveli Avenue in front of the National Gallery, heavily guarded by a police force. President Salome Zurabishvili decried the overreaction of the authorities and said such cases were reminiscent of “other times” (referring to the Soviet past).

The art scandal over the paint on the wall seemed to have run its course over the weekend until the culture ministry, led by Tea Tsulukiani, sent audit inspectors to remove five paintings from the presidential palace on Monday, saying they were damaged and in need of repair. The Ministry of Culture has said that several paintings decorating the presidential palace were the state property, giving them full authority to act. The presidential administration described this action as a “political attack” on the presidency, as Salome Zurabishvili has been trading barbs with the minister of culture Tea Tsulukiani. 

Former police strongman of the Saakashvili cabinet, Vano Merabishvili, took part in Mark Feiygin’s video cast “Critical Condition,” possibly signaling his return to the public scene. In his video appearance, Vano Merabishvili accused Georgian authorities of transforming Georgia into a laggard among the EU and NATO aspiring countries and pledged to step up the UNM.

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Opposition-minded TV Pirveli aired a story of a former chief prosecutor Otar Partskhaladze allegedly obtaining Russian citizenship and moving to Moscow. Once close ally and relative of the ruling Georgian Dream patron, Bidzina Ivanishvili, Otar Partskhaladze set up a luxurious office in Moscow and acquired several business licenses there, media investigation suggests. Reports also say that the former chief prosecutor keeps a Georgian passport alongside a Russian one. Ruling party officials appeared neither to deny nor to confirm Partskhaladze’s Russian citizenship. Partskhaladze served as chief prosecutor for only 47 days in 2013, resigning on 30 December soon after the opposition United National Movement party claimed he had served 15 months in jail for robbery and theft in Augsburg, Germany. Even after his resignation, scandal-ridden Partskhaladze was charged with assaulting the auditor general but was acquitted by the court, while his accompanying person was found guilty and fined. 


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