Shevardnadze Print E-mail
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Thursday, 30 August 2007 18:37
Shevardnadze narrowly survived a bomb attack in August 1995 that he blamed on his erstwhile paramilitary allies. He took the opportunity to imprison the paramilitary leader Jaba Ioseliani and ban his Mkhedrioni militia in what was proclaimed as a strike against "mafia forces". However, his government - and his own family - became increasingly associated with pervasive corruption that hampered Georgia's economic growth. He won presidential elections in November 1995 and April 2000 with large majorities, but there were persistent allegations of vote-rigging.

The war in Chechnya caused considerable friction with Russia, which accused Georgia of harbouring Chechen guerrillas. Further friction was caused by Shevardnadze's close relationship with the United States, which saw him as a counterbalance to Russian influence in the strategic Transcaucasus region. Georgia became a major recipient of U.S. foreign and military aid, signed a strategic partnership with NATO and declared an ambition to join both NATO and the EU. In 2002, the United States sent hundreds of Special Operations Forces to assist the local military fight guerrilla fighters. See War on Terrorism/Pankisi Gorge. Perhaps most significantly, the country secured a $3 billion project to build a pipeline carrying oil from Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia (the so-called "Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan" or BTC pipeline).