Addressing a congress of the governing Union of Citizens of Georgia, President Eduard Shevardnadze expressed certainty that the recent attempt against his life and the hostage seizure in western Georgia were "planned in Moscow." "I do not mean Boris Yeltsin, but forces in Moscow who would do anything to prevent the oil pipelines and the Eurasian transit corridor from being built through Georgian territory. When those are built, Georgia would become a country of world importance," Shevardnadze said, implying that those projects would ensure Georgia’s independence vis-a-vis Russia.
Shevardnadze cautioned the Russian authorities against "harboring terrorists, because a country which does that puts its own tranquillity at risk." He called on the Russian leadership to seek "equitable relations" with Georgia. At the same time, he warned Georgians against any "reckless games with such a big neighbor as Russia," and reiterated that Tbilisi is "ready to work seriously" with Moscow.
Parliament Chairman Zurab Zhvania in turn told the 2,500 congress participants that the organizers of the assassination attempt against Shevardnadze and of the hostage seizure were "funded from Moscow," where the 1995 plotters also found a haven. State Minister (equivalent of prime minister) Niko Lekishvili told the congress that the sudden reemergence of "Zviadists" and their actions were "in the interest of those who want to stop international investments being placed in Georgia and to thwart the oil pipeline and other major projects." Shevardnadze’s international law adviser, Levan Aleksidze, told the press that the Zviadists were acting merely as "decoys" for those interested in claiming the world that Georgia is unstable and incapable of hosting those international projects. In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry’s chief spokesman Gennady Tarasov termed Aleksidze’s view "morbidly anti-Russian." (Prime News, Russian agencies, February 22-23) The Ministry chose not to take issue directly with Georgia’s political leaders who had expressed the same view.
Government "Suspends" Oil and Gas Privatization.