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Badri Patarkatsishvili was no ordinary politician. He played
Badri Patarkatsishvili was no ordinary politician. He played a key role in Georgia's life, apart from his role in the country's economy.

Patarkatsishvili was a big name in business and very rich. Figures describing his fortune and his contributions to political campaigns vary wildly, and are difficult to verify. But out of all the independent leaders his financial influence on political life was the greatest.

There was a time when he also enjoyed high standing in Russia. It was there that he built his business career - so successfully that at one point he was known as one of the most influential businessmen in Russia. He was also proactive in political life, and headed several Russian television channels.

He was a cautious man, and if he took a risk he took care not to go too far. Even when he ran for president in Georgia (and got 7% of the vote), he did not really seem to want that post. Nevertheless, he was viewed as a serious contender by Mikheil Saakashvili and the Georgian political elite. His death has left the vacuum that follows the departure of a strong and powerful political leader.

His death is also a serious blow to the Georgian opposition, which now has no one to "lean" against, at least financially. It is also of some interest to see the response of politicians and officials in Tbilisi and those who followed him. The opposition's next moves are easy to guess - it will accuse Saakashvili of being the direct or indirect cause of Patarkatsishvili's death. They are unlikely to blame Russia.

As regards the Georgian president, he is also unlikely to mourn in his passing. To an extent the death of a leading opponent is not to his advantage. Rumors about his supposed involvement in this death could mar his public rating, but the absence of such a strong rival undeniably improves his chances in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Patarkatsishvili's death is bound to generate rumors and gossip, especially in Britain, where he died. The U.K. has seen too many dissidents dying, and people connected with Russia or Boris Berezovsky too often finding themselves in all sorts of mess. The British papers will discuss this theme avidly and at length.

Somebody is bound to play this card. Especially journalists, who will take up the issue and pursue it to the best of their ability. After all, the death of a 52-year-old with no history of heart trouble looks suspicious, although he had led a stressful life over the past few months.

Badri Patarkatsishvili is gone, but questions about him as a political figure remain as frustratingly unanswered in death as they were in life. The first of them is: What was his real aim in Georgia? He was talented both as a tactician and a strategist, and could not but make plans for the future. But what were they? How did he want to align his relations with the incumbent authorities? What were his ambitions and aspirations, what were the things he was prepared to abandon, and what did he stand for?

Was he determined to fight to the bitter end, or had he arranged other options? It would be interesting to know the answers, but these questions are unlikely to be answered any time at all.

Alexei Malashenko is an associate of the Moscow Carnegie Center.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


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