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Ivanishvili: "We will not allow any political repression"
Regarding the arrest of former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili, who has been in custody since May on charges of corruption and who was considered a leading presidential candidate in late October's elections, Ivanishvili said: "When a prime minister is arrested it inevitably raises questions. Merabishvili is not the only powerful politician in the opposition. I believe that his party is no serious competition for us. It is wrong then to say that we would go ahead and arrest our opposition."
Ivanishvili hopes for further improvement in bilateral relations with Russia: "Economic relations have practically recovered. We are working on resuming regular flights between Moscow and Tbilisi. There are ongoing negotiations on visa facilitation and even the abolition of visas. But there are problems, such as the construction of barriers on the administrative borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia."
Ivanishvili said that the two breakaway regions of Georgia must decide themselves with whom they want to live. "There is no other way except friendly relations and negotiations."
Ivanishvili said that his government still wants to join NATO. "Good relations with Russia and NATO are hard to reconcile. But there are countries that have succeeded - the Baltic States, Poland and the Czech Republic, for example. Georgia has it a little bit harder. Much depends on developments in Russia."
Bidzina Ivanishvili has been prime minister of the former Soviet republic of Georgia since October 2012. The 57-year-old made his fortune as a banker and businessman in Russia. In 2011, he went into politics and founded the opposition movement Georgian Dream, from which the party with the same name emerged later.
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