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5 Sep, 2008 04:37

Profit not politics the focus for Russian companies in Georgia

Trade relations between Georgia and Russia go back nearly a thousand years. Some Russian companies have become a part of Georgian daily life, and remain so despite political tensions between the two nations.

Russia has long had close business ties with its southern neighbor – they lie on ancient trade routes.  Today those routes buzz with telecom traffic, power, and fuel supplies.

Russian oil company Lukoil has been in Georgia for 10 years. It's seeking to build a new terminal off the coast of the Black Sea.  For Maza Katamadze, General Director of Lukoil Georgia the current crisis means focusing on the tasks at hand with a team which includes numerous nationalities.

“Lukoil filling stations are situated throughout the country – in all regions and because of this we have a very large corporate network of clients.  Our company is an international one – where Russians, Azeris, Armenians, Georgians, and Ossetians work on the same team.”

In pure cash terms, electricity operator Inter RAO is the largest Russian investor in the Georgian economy.  It has several projects underway, but declined to comment on the politically-sensitive sphere of energy.

No shortage of talking at telecoms company Vimpelcom. Its Beeline brand has attracted 200,000 Georgian subscribers in little more than a year and, like Lukoil, its focusing on business issues according to Mobitel PR Manager Tamara Sakvarelidze.

“Every mobile company is supposed to build up the national network and, if possible, offer services in other countries as well. so That is the plan. We are still building the network all over the Georgia. The company is a business keeping away from political views and opinions.”

Emotions are high in the wake of the recent conflict between the two countries, but, as local residents and businesspeople have pointed out – politics is one thing, and, business something different altogether.

As the war of words between Russian and Georgian politicians continues, economic relations have a much better footing – a sign of the long-term mutual business interests in the region.