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Opposition Raises Money for a Tree to Save it from Ballooner Ivanishvili

By Tea Mariamidze
Wednesday, April 4
14 Georgian opposition parties, united under Dmanisi Saving Foundation, are raising money to pay for a 100-year Eucalyptus tree from Mtsvane Kontskhi, in Georgia’s Black Sea coastal city of Batumi.

The fund acquired the tree after winning an auction, announced by the Ministry of Finance last week.

The opposition parties claim they bought the tree to save it from billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, founder of ruling Georgian Dream party and ex-PM of Georgia, who is “obsessed with his tree-collecting hobby”.

The initial price of the tree was 7,000 GEL ($2,910) but the last bid was GEL 20,020 ($8,323). According to Dmanisi Saving Foundation, they had only one competitor in the auction – the company which serves Ivanishvili to transport giant trees to his private arboretum in Ureki, Black Sea town of Georgia.

The political parties did not have the full amount of money to pay for the auction and they only paid the guarantee sum – 2,800 GEL. If the opposition parties fail to pay the money, they will lose already paid guarantee sum and the auction will be annulled. Afterwards, a new auction will be announced.

Giorgi Vashadze, leader of New Georgia non-parliamentary opposition party, says the fund will pay for the tree and it will stay at Mtsvane Kontskhi.

According to Vashadze, the fund already has 14,000 GEL and they continue to raise money.

“Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, we will pay the money and our request will be to leave tree in its place, where it has been for more than 100 years," said Giorgi Vashadze.

He also stressed that the main principle is to reveal what actually is happening in the country.

“The authorities do not think about people's interests and problems at all. They are moving the trees and trying to satisfy the wishes of the country's informal ruler,” he added, referring to Ivanishvili.

One of the leaders of the United National Movement (UNM) opposition party, Nika Melia, stated that the Finance Ministry put the tree up at the auction to let Bidzina Ivanishvili buy it.

“We will use all means to resist this man and prevent him from taking trees to his garden. Our actions are the message to him that we will not let him continue destroying trees,” Melia said.

For months, Ivanishvili has been taking trees from around the country to his personal arboretum.

Sometimes the trees were so huge that other trees had to be cut down during the process, and branches cut from trees on private property to make space on their routes.

Moreover, holes left from where the trees were taken have been left unfilled.

Ivanishvili first received permission to begin moving trees in December 2015. Since then, every time Ivanishvili targets a new tree, the opposition and the environmentalists slam the government but the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection state the process is legal.

Last year it was reported by media that Ivanishvili has a plan to transport around 50 trees to his arboretum. However, it is unknown exactly how many old trees were uprooted and taken to his garden during these years.