Georgian prime minister mysteriously dies

Zurab Zhvania died because of natural gas poisoning, although assassination is quite possible too

The death of Zurab Zhvania, the prime minister of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, will most likely become the subject of numerous discussions about who gains profit from it and who he was an obstacle to. Zhvania was a reformer and ally of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili; he was persona number two in the administration of the republic.

One could categorize the prime minister's death as a tragic incident. According to the official version, Zurab Zhvania's bodyguards found his body in the apartment of his friend, Raul Yusupov, a Georgian official. Zurab Zhvania was found dead there on Thursday, at about 4:30 a.m. The bodyguards were worried with his long absence; the boss was not answering the phone either. They failed to break the door of the apartment open, and got inside through the window. The body of the apartment owner was found in the kitchen, Zurab Zhvania was found dead in the living room.

The minister for police affairs and the public security, Vano Merabishvili, told reporters that Zurab Zhvania and Raul Yusupov died because of natural gas leakage from a gas-powered heater of the Iranian production, which was installed in the apartment. It is noteworthy that such incidents are not rare in Georgia: the number of incidents connected with natural gas poisoning and poor ventilation in apartments has reached 80 during the recent four years.

The Georgian government will most likely stick to the official version of the tragedy – an accident. President Saakashvili said at an urgent session of the Georgian government that he “had lost his dearest friend.”

Other versions explaining Zurab Zhvania's cause of death started surfacing one after another, when the news became known. A deputy of the Georgian parliament, Aleko Shalamberidze, did not exclude that Zhvania's death could be tied with a recent explosion near a police station in Gori. The prime minister's death was not accidental, the deputy said: “Russia is standing behind it,” Shalamberidze stated (the deputy represents the pro-governmental majority in the parliament of Georgia). “Everything coincides here. I have an impression that such things are deliberately happening in Georgia. These tragic facts testify to serious interference from certain forces. These forces are operating from Russia,” RIA Novosti quoted the deputy as saying.

According to another unofficial version, Zhvania and Yusupov have been shot, reports. Specialists reportedly found gunshot wounds on their bodies. The news website has not reported any other details about it, though.

A big scandal broke out in the Georgian administration in the beginning of the current year. The fight took place between incumbent and former defense ministers (Irakli Okruashvili and Georgy Baramidze respectively). Okruashvili accused Baramidze of corrupting the nation's army. The incumbent defense minister of Georgia is said to be a president's ally, whereas the former minister was named to be an ally to Zhvania. When Georgy Baramidze resigned from his position, Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania was deprived of his only follower in Georgia's military departments. President Mikhail Saakashvili made Okruashvili and Baramidze bury the hatchet. However, it is hard to say that the reconciliation was sincere: the two officials were publicly insulting each other for several days afterwards. Observers believe that the conflict has proved the fact of serious problems in the Georgian government – between the teams of President Saakashvili and Prime Minister Zhvania.

In the meantime, Mikhail Saakashvili appointed Vice Premier Georgy Baramidze acting prime minister of Georgia. It would be logic to assume that the head of state is trying to put an end to rumors about the conflict in the top administration of Georgia. The presidential administration, however, rejected the information above the new appointment. It was particularly said that the president keeps the situation in the country under his personal control.

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Author`s name Olga Savka