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Georgia takes action against MegaFon2009-02-17 13:53
Moscow's refusal to help Tbilisi in its prosecution of the MegaFon leadership has incensed Georgia's Foreign Ministry. The activities of the mobile phone operator in South Ossetia and Abkhazia contravene the Georgian law "On the occupied territories". But MegaFon is ignoring these "accusations" and is in no hurry to pay the fines imposed on it.
As the Georgian foreign ministry reported on its website, Russia's state prosecutor's office turned down a request for help in the fight against MegaFon's illegal, in Tbilisi's opinion, activities in Abkhazia. "This fact," affirms the Foreign Ministry, "is yet another example of Russia's policy of annexation and proves that the Russian Federation is continuing to violate the universally recognized standards and principles of international law and to ignore its own international commitments, especially regarding Georgia's occupied territories."
The Georgian authorities do not intend to restrict themselves to mere declarations. According to the internet publication "Business Georgia", a list of 12 high-ranking figures from among the Russian company's leadership has been passed over to the country's Security Council, and the possibility cannot be ruled out that an arrest warrant might be issued for its manager and director-general through Interpol.
The lawsuits initiated by the Georgian authorities against MegaFon started back in the summer. Back then, the Georgian National Communications Commission fined MegaFon $3500 "for illegal activities" in South Ossetia during the August conflict, and in the autumn imposed a second fine of $37,500. The mobile phone operator did not accept the charges and even tried to dispute them in a court in Tbilisi, although admittedly without success. The company also denies a direct link with the Ossetian operator Ostelekom. Last December reports appeared in the Russian press that MegaFon had bought that Abkhazian operator Akvafon. Neither Sukhumi nor Moscow confirmed this officially. Yet on the same day Georgia's Foreign Ministry responded with a special announcement reminding them of the law "On the occupied territories", whereby any foreign companies must come to an agreement with Georgia's authorities about launching any economic activities in Abkhazia or South Ossetia.
Referring to this "act of legislation", the Georgian authorities previously imposed a fine on the Russian media - the radio station Vesti FM and "Perviy Kanal" (Channel One), which were broadcasting in Tskhinvali and Tbilisi. Then they threatened to take Russian Railways (RZhD) to the international courts if the company carried out its plan to a construct a railway to South Ossetia. The retailer Evroset, which had opened branches in Tskhinvali, also received a warning. The parliamentary deputy Shota Malashkhia even promised "to try to restrict" the activities of 20 Abkhazian and South Ossetian banks "at an international level".
Georgia's "sanctions" are not causing much concern in Russia. Moscow has recognized the independence of the two republics, hence laws passed by a third state cannot impose any restrictions on the activities of Russian companies in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Therefore the Russian state prosecutor's office has no reason to pay any attention to the complaints of the Tbilisi regime.
Attempts to dictate one's will on one's neighbours have not brought anyone any joy. It's time for Tbilisi to realize this. As Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Mikheil Saakashvili himself is to blame for breaking up Georgia's territorial integrity, reported ITAR-TASS. And the price he had to pay for his August escapade was the appearance of two new subjects of international relations on the map of the South Caucasus.