Leaked conversation between Georgia's ruling party founder & Russian oligarch sparks outrage
Leaked recordings of Ivanishvili and Yevtushenkov’s conversation
Two audio recordings of an alleged conversation between the Georgian oligarch, founder of the ruling party and the informal ruler of the country, Bidzina Ivanishvili, and the Russian oligarch Vladimir Yevtushenkov, who has recently fallen under international sanctions, were published on Youtube.
According to the video description, these recordings were made on March 10 and 12 of this year, that is, when Russia had already invaded Ukraine.
Following the release of the recordings, David Arakhamia, chairman of Ukraine’s ruling Servant of the People party, urged the EU and the US to consider introducing personal sanctions against Ivanishvili.
What was the conversation about?
On the recording, Yevtushenkov asks Ivanishvili to help get around the sanctions. Specific names and surnames are being heard, including the visit to Georgia by Ali Uzdenov, vice-president of Yevtushenko’s sanctioned company.
The protocol also mentions David – allegedly featured in the notorious “cartographer case” David Khidasheli, a Russian businessman of Georgian origin. During his stay in Russia, he was vice president of the telecommunications company Sistema. Yevtushenkov is the owner of a controlling stake in this company.
Ivanishvili told Yevtushenko that “The situation is unfavorable, but restraint is needed as there’s nothing else that can be done about it”. In turn, Yevtushenkov allegedly told Ivanishvili that David would bring something that, according to him, would be of interest to Ivanishvili and others.
Arakhamia: “I urge EU and USA to consider imposing sanctions against Ivanishvili”
Shortly after the allegedly leaked recordings were published, David Arakhamia, chairman of Ukraine’s ruling Servant of the People party, made a statement on his Telegram channel.
“Ukrainians and Georgians have always been and will be fraternal peoples. Georgian celebrities even recorded a video in support of us before February 24, many Georgians have been fighting on the front lines for Ukraine since the beginning of the war. They strongly support Ukraine and our victory in this war. However, unfortunately, we cannot say the same about the Georgian government”.
“And the reason is simple – the country’s main oligarch, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has close ties to the Russian political elite, which is once again confirmed by a recently published recordings”, Arakhamia wrote.
According to him, the whole policy of the current government of Georgia is to follow the instructions of the Kremlin, which is why they do not recognize Russia’s war crimes against Ukraine and help Russia bypass the sanctions.
“Today Ivanishvili has become the Yanukovych of Georgia. He and his close friends are pursuing a policy towards Ukraine that is not supported by the Georgian people. They wanted to separate Georgians and Ukrainians for decades. To prevent this, I call on the EU and US leadership to consider imposing personal sanctions against Ivanishvili and his assets in the West. No one should escape responsibility, neither the occupiers nor those who help them”, Arakhamia said.
Who is Vladimir Yevtushenkov?
Yevtushenkov’s name was mentioned in the “case of cartographers” in Georgia. Then the leader of the Droa party, Elene Khoshtaria, published a video investigation, from which we learned that Yevtushenkov is the founder of David Khidasheli’s communications company Sistema and the owner of a controlling stake.
“Vladimir Yevtushenkov is a businessman close to Putin. As it turned out, the citizens of North Korea during the Kim Jong-un regime worked for Sistema, bypassing UN sanctions. Sistema financed Viktor Yanukovych during the 2014 Maidan events and helped launder money through its own banks. Sistema is linked to Solntsevskiye, one of the largest criminal gangs of the 1990s”, Khoshtaria said in a statement.
After working for many years as an engineer and deputy director of a number of enterprises, in 1987, at the invitation of the former mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, Yevtushenkov moved to the city executive committee, and in 1990 became chairman of the city committee on science and technology. In 1991, he became one of the founders of CJSC “Region” and the Russian-American company “Ordynka” [was engaged in the reconstruction of old buildings in the center of Moscow].
In 1993, Yevtushenkov and his associates founded the joint-stock financial corporation Sistema, whose activities covered several sectors of the economy at the same time. Today, the corporation includes many different enterprises involved in energy, timber processing, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, tourism and other activities.
Yevtushenkov has been a member of the board of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Russia since 2000, and since 2001 – the head of the Industrial Policy Committee of the same union; since 2002 – member of the Board of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Government Commission on Science and Innovation Policy, Chairman of the Russia-Saudi Arabia Business Council, Chairman of the Council for Science and High Technologies under the President of Russia, member of the Council for Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness under the Government of Russia.
Since 2005, Yevtushenkov has been among the ten richest entrepreneurs in Russia according to Forbes. His net worth peaked in 2008 at $10.3 billion
Reaction in Georgia
The Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, reacted to the publication of the audio recording and called it “fake”, while the chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Irakli Kobakhidze, said that “even if the recording is authentic, it was only about trade relations”.
The Lelo opposition party devoted a briefing to the conversation between Ivanishvili and Yevtushenko. The party is asking Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili to immediately release information about whether he met in Tbilisi with Ali Uzdenov, a man close to the Kremlin and a member of the political council of Russia’s ruling party.
The party demands that, if the meeting took place, the contents of the conversation be made public. Also, the Lelo faction officially requests information from the Ministry of Internal Affairs on whether Ali Uzdenov crossed the state border in the last 2 months.
“If this information is confirmed, the current government of Georgia, Prime Minister Garibashvili and his informal ruler Bidzina Ivanishvili may be found guilty of complicity in evading the sanctions regime. The result is deplorable for our country, which, if such facts are confirmed, may find itself under threat of sanctions”, the party says.
The leader of European Georgia, Giga Bokeria, also reacted to the publication of recordings. According to him, the behavior of the regime during this critical period for Georgia proves that the Ivanishvili regime is a soft satellite of “Putin’s evil empire”:
“Every oligarch in Putin’s circle has one main problem – a free world with sanctions against Putin’s evil empire. They are trying to avoid these sanctions, and this time the oligarch who grew up with them, who took over the whole country, will try to help the oligarchs avoid sanctions. The actions of the Ivanishvili regime, its past and public statements alone confirm the validity of this suspicion”.
Tensions between Georgia and Ukraine escalated on the second day after the start of the war, when the Prime Minister of Georgia announced that the country would not join the sanctions against Russia. Garibashvili also said that Ukraine could not avoid the war, and because of this, most of the Ukrainian people and state would suffer.
On the same day, Grigory Karasin, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Council of the Russian Federation, praised the Georgian authorities for their position on Ukraine. Karasin called Georgia’s response to the anti-Russian sanctions of the West “balanced” and stressed that “this fact will not go unnoticed” in Russia.
After that, President Zelensky recalled the Ukrainian ambassador from Georgia, first temporarily, and then permanently.
The latest scandal was caused by the statement of Ukrainian intelligence who said that Russia was establishing a smuggling route through the territory of Georgia. According to these accusations, the political leadership of Georgia agreed with Russia on the smuggling of sanctioned products through its territory.
The State Security Service of Georgia reacted to the information disseminated by Ukrainian intelligence and called on the Ukrainian side to immediately provide evidence confirming the information in order to respond to the accusations legally.
Later, Irakli Kobakhidze set three conditions for the Ukrainian authorities, which must be fulfilled in order for a parliamentary delegation to arrive in Ukraine. They include an apology for the accusations, the return of the ambassador and the dismissal of former Georgian high-ranking officials from their offices in Ukraine.
However, soon the visit of the parliamentary delegation of Georgia to Ukraine took place. The speaker of the parliament and the deputies declared their support for Ukraine and visited the scene of mass crimes of Russian troops near Kyiv.