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Monday, June 19, 2006

Desperate, Petty, Pathetic Russians Will Stop at Nothing to Undermine Georgian Democracy

The Georgia Messenger reports that, not content to attack Georgia by denying Russians its wne and water, the Kremlin is now going after money transfers between family members. How low can you go? Welcome to the Neo-Soviet Union.

The president of Russia denied his government plans to put restrictions on money transfers to Georgia, saying he did not issue any instructions about it.

"Georgians temporarily living in our country transfer USD 1.5-2 billion to their homeland annually," Vladimir Putin noted talking to journalists on June 13 in St Petersburg after meeting with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

However, the National Bank of Georgia questioned Putin's figures, naming USD 300 million as the actual annual amount of transfers from Russia.

The central bank asserts that USD 403 million has been transferred from foreign countries to Georgian commercial banks through different money transfer systems like Western Union, MoneyGram, and Anelik in 2005. Only USD 253 million from this amount was transferred from Russia.

Apart from transferring money through these systems, Georgians living abroad also send cash through countries with direct road connections with Georgia such as Turkey and Russia.

The National Bank estimates that annual total money transfers from Russia will amount to USD 300 million, instead of the astronomical USD 1.5-2 billion president Putin claimed.

Russian opposition MPs came up with an initiative to restrict international money transfers to Georgia in April.

The president of the Georgian National Bank, Roman Gotsiridze, called this initiative "unserious" and said that it would be technically impossible to stop such money transfers in this era of electronic accounting. He added that the attempted implementation of this idea would result in serious damage to Russia's financial system, both for its reputation and in terms of practical consequences.

"First of all, Georgians working in Russia are creating considerable wealth for Russia, as they are contributing to the economic development of that country," Gotsiridze said back in April.
The number of money transfers through commercial banks has been steadily increasing in Georgia for the last two years.

According to the National Bank of Georgia, in 2003 money transfers from abroad totaled USD 55 million, in 2004 they totaled USD 200 million, and in 2005 USD 403 million.
During January-April of 2006 the total amount of money transferred equaled USD 138.2 million-a far cry from Putin's estimate.

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