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The News in Brief

Monday, February 22
Traffic to fully resume at Baratashvili Bridge on March 15

Traffic will completely resume on the Baratashvili Bridge on March 15. Tbilisi Mayor Davit Narmania visited the bridge and saw the repairs together with other heads of Tbilisi City Hall.

The NCC Company has been carrying out the repair work. The Mayor ordered the company leadership to conclude its operation by March 15.

As reported by Tbilisi City Hall the repairs have cost 1,970 million GEL.

Ivanishvili sues Credit Suisse, claims 100 million francs vanished

Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili is suing Credit Suisse for losing 100 million Swiss francs, according to reports in the Swiss media.

Ivanishvili has filed a lawsuit in a Geneva court against the financial manager of Credit Suisse Group AG for embezzling his shares.

Swiss newspaper Le Tempt writes that Ivanishvili’s private banker took about 100 million Swiss francs from funds owned by Ivanishvili in order to cover losses suffered by other clients.

According to Wall Street Journal, Ivanishvili’s private banker Patrice Lescaudron is now in police custody, and Credis Suisse has sued him for fraud.

Two other Russian clients also lost millions. Their identities have not been revealed, but according to Swiss media they are connected to Gazprom.
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Tskhinvali Mulls Referendum on Constitutional Changes Related to Joining Russia

The leader of Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia, Leonid Tibilov, has proposed a referendum on a constitutional change that would allow the de-facto president to request that Moscow fully incorporate South Ossetia into the Russian Federation.

Addressing the breakaway region’s parliament on February 19, Tibilov suggested that it would be a more flexible form of achieving South Ossetia’s “dream” of joining Russia than holding a referendum directly on whether to become or not part of Russia. He indicated that this “special form” of the referendum will give Tskhinvali a “constitutional basis” to initiate the accession process whenever appropriate.

Calls for joining Russia were frequently heard from Tskhinvali before the August war of 2008, and have been repeatedly vocalised since. In October 2015 Tibilov announced his intention to hold a referendum on joining Russia, but the Kremlin said that the issue was not a topic of discussion with Tskhinvali. Senior Russian lawmakers said that it was not the best time for such a decision, mostly due to international ramifications, and there were simply not enough benefits for Moscow.

“We cannot but be concerned with more and more frequently voiced demands from Western leaders for Russia to reverse its decision on the recognition of our republic. We are also concerned about the overall sharp deterioration of the international situation; developments in Ukraine, Syria and the Middle East, NATO creeping closer to Russian borders, as well as the continued bellicose anti-Russian and anti-Ossetian rhetoric in our southern neighbor,” Tibilov told the breakaway region’s parliament on February 19.

“In these conditions we feel the need even more acutely for materializing our long-standing dream of joining Greater Russia and solving the problem of divided Ossetian people. It is obvious that it is the only way through which we can gain long-term guarantees of security and peaceful development,” he said.

“That’s why we are going to continue consultations this year with the Russian side about holding the referendum. We understand the complexity and delicate nature of this issue and we are not going to create any complications for our strategic partner [Russia] on the international arena, and so I believe that the referendum should be held in a special format,” Tibilov said.

“That’s why it is being considered to put in the referendum a question of adding a clause to the constitution allowing the President to appeal to the Russian Federation with a proposal to accept South Ossetia as part of the Russian Federation.

“It will give us a firm constitutional basis for initiating the issue of joining Russia, and at the same time we will not be obligating the Russian side to react immediately on the results of our referendum. Then, in agreement with the Russian side, we will have a possibility to put forth without delay the initiative over joining Russia,” he said.

Luke Coffey: NATO should confirm it has serious intentions towards Georgia’s membership

Luke Coffey, Director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation, has declared that NATO should confirm its serious intentions towards Georgia’s membership to the alliance.

As he has told the Voice of America's Georgian office, NATO should send a clear and loud signal to Georgia remarking the country is on the right path.

‘NATO should care for the self-defence of its member states according to the 1949 Washington Agreement. It is not necessary for the alliance to do everything everywhere but to defend its members by means of armies and technical means. But NATO should maintain an open-door policy for the countries that want to integrate in NATO, such as Georgia. It should be finally admitted to the alliance,’ he said.

According to him, NATO's policies towards Montenegro were prudent, and the alliance should now confirm that it has serious intentions in terms of Georgia’s integration.