Miraculous liberation of Gigi Ugulava
The former mayor of the Georgian capital, Gigi Ugulava, who was considered a close ally of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, was unexpectedly released. In 2015, the City Court sentenced him to 4.6 years in prison for embezzlement of public funds. The investigation proved that in 2011-2012 the mayor used his official position to employ the activists of the United National Movement (UNM), which was the ruling party in Georgia back then, in municipal structures, including the 'Tbilservis' company, responsible for cleaning in the city. But instead of cleaning urban neighborhoods, the newly appeared 'municipal employees' were engaged in the pre-election campaigning.
The arrest of Gigi Ugulava became a milestone in the process of 'achieving justice' and the punishment of the former authorities. It was a promise of the founder of the country's ruling party 'Georgian Dream', billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, on the eve of the crucial parliamentary elections in 2012. He is still considered 'an informal leader of the government'. Therefore, many in Tbilisi are convinced that the appellate court's decision to reduce the term of Gigi Ugulava's imprisonment to 1 year and 3 months, because of which he was released on the eve of Christmas, is linked to another political intrigue of the billionaire to split the once monolithic party of Mikhail Saakashvili.
The fact is that in recent years the former mayor has increasingly criticized the former president and even called on his party members to elect a new chairman in place of Saakashvili. This issue has become a major cause of conflict in the UNM - the party split into two factions: supporters of Saakashvili and supporters of Ugulava. Therefore, the release of the former mayor from the prison can be a very sophisticated political move, reinforcing split in the only serious opposition force on the eve of the party congress, scheduled for January 20.
Ugulava himself makes no secret of his plans to compete for leadership in the party, which was founded by Saakashvili in 2001. First thing upon release the ex-mayor went to the party's office and said that he plans to fly to Ukraine to hold "decisive talks" with Saakashvili. However, later it turned out that the meeting is impossible right now, since the ex-president is in the US.
Saakashvili's reaction to a release of a once-close ally and the main current party rival is also noteworthy: former President demanded to cancel four criminal cases pended against him by the Attorney General and said that he would like to return to Georgia. But for the resumption of political activities in the homeland of his ancestors at first Saakashvili must regain his citizenship, which he lost by joining the citizenship of Ukraine.
The recent visit of a group of US senators led by John McCain is also mentioned among other versions of Gigi Ugulava's 'miraculous release'. According to certain reports, the senators categorically demanded the authorities to release political prisoners. However, Western politicians have repeatedly made such a requirement before, but Ugulava was able to get out of jail only when the exemption of a politician, which charisma can be compared to Saakashvili's, almost certainly means the final split of the UNM, which means the further strengthening of the positions of the Georgian Dream ruling party.