President Mikheil Saakashvili claims a group of Georgian exiles in Russia were behind the Georgian Dream coalition’s election win in October, 2012. (Photo: President’s administration.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili claims that billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili came to power in 2012 thanks to a group of Georgian exiles in Russia who provided funding and support.

As he returned from a trip to Azerbaijan last week, Saakashvili claimed a group of exiles has been established in Russia, which has a goal of fighting against the president of Azerbaijan, “just like it happened in October’s election in Georgia”.

The president said he has seen that Georgia and Azerbaijan are in danger because of this group of exiles, started by someone called Sadikov, a rich Russian businessman from Gardabani, as he described it, together with a few other Russian billionaires.

“Their goal is to fight against the president – the guarantee for Azerbaijan’s independence — with the same scenario, as happened last October in Georgia’s election: by using money, oligarchs, Russian capital, blackmail and other provocations,” he said, implying that this was how Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili got into power.

In the election campaign in 2012, the Saakashvili regime frequently voiced the theory that Ivanishvili was a Russian stooge.

Shortly after the president’s statement, Novruz Mamedov, foreign relations spokesperson for the Azerbaijani president’s administration, said in an interview with NewTimes.az that Saakashvili’s statement was ‘surprising.’

He underlined that the two countries have their own domestic and foreign policy course, but the situation is different between Georgia and Azerbaijan, which is visible in many issues.

He said that Saakashvili’s statement about exiles in Russia might only be his personal opinion.

“I don’t think his statement regarding Vagit Alekberov and other persons might be a reality,” he said, adding that during Saakashvili’s visit to Azerbaijan such issues were not discussed.

“I’m very sorry that Mikheil Saakashvili, who stated his own position towards Russia, mentioned Azerbaijan too.”

The governing Georgian Dream coalition criticized the Georgian president. Defense Minister Irakli Alasania said the president’s statement was ‘anti-state’ and creates a threat to the security in the region.

On Monday, the president and the prime minister met for a second time to try to break a gridlock in a discussion about constitutional changes. After the meeting, the PM said he told Saakashvili that his statements and specifically statement made after visit to Azerbaijan are ‘harmful to the country’.

“I asked him to apologize, and if he won’t do it, I plan to apologize instead of him,” he said.

Afterward, as they were evaluated the meeting, journalists asked the president about his recent statement, but he only responded that if they, the journalists, have eyes and ears and own a TV, they should have noticed how successful the visit to Azerbaijan was and how well the neighbor country hosted them as guests.

Bidzina Ivanishvili thought that this wasn’t enough, as after the meeting he issued an additional statement in which he wrote that the president’s statements do not reflect the position of the government and his statements and visits abroad have not been agreed with the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Foreign Affairs Minister Maia Panjikidze on Monday explained to journalists that statements regarding foreign policy course are not agreed between the government and the president.

“Very often, really awkward situations appear due to this fact,” she said after meeting with the Lithuanian foreign affairs minister, who is currently visiting.

This is the second time in two weeks President Mikheil Saakashvili is being criticized for making an unfounded statement. February 26, he claimed that Russian banks are taking over the banks in Georgia, but this was denied by the banks themselves and he later retracted the claim.