Daily Archives: April 26, 2008

Gideon Rachman

Some lunches end with coffee in the drawing room; others finish with a brandy on the terrace. But the final course of my lunch with Mikheil Saakashvili is taking place in a Dolphin helicopter, speeding towards a military base in the middle of Georgia.

President Saakashvili – affable over lunch on a terrace in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital – is ebullient once up in the air. As we lean back on our black leather seats, he puts on a CD at top volume: it is Charles Aznavour singing “Je N’ai Rien Oublié”. French is one of the many languages the president speaks and besides – he informs me – Aznavour is of Georgian origin.

Gesturing towards the countryside – and shouting to make himself heard over the helicopter blades and the Aznavour – Saakashvili says that if I look to my right I will see South Ossetia, a Georgian territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists. “We don’t want to fly too close to there,” he laughs. “The last time I did that, they shot a missile at my helicopter.” Read more