During a news briefing on 26 March, Deputy Director of the National Disease Control Centre Paata Imnadze was asked by a journalist whether he thanked the third President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili for the establishment of the Lugar Lab, as it was reported by regional media. Imnadze responded that he never made such statement.
Paata Imnadze: “I have not made a statement of that kind as to who and where organized a ribbon-cutting ceremony. I am very well aware of the history of establishing the Lugar Lab. It started under [the second President of Georgia Eduard] Shevardnadze’s rule. The first agreement was signed by Shevardnadze himself and [US President Bill] Clinton. The second agreement was signed by the Defense Ministers of Georgia and the United States. It happened in 2002. Thereafter, members of that [Saakashvili] government participated in the continuation of the project too. I stress that the decisions were taken in 2002. [Former Economy Minister Kakha] Bendukidze’s involvement was crucial.”
Google search for keywords resulted in two articles published by the regional media outlets www.odishinews.ge and www.guriismoambe.com. However, the information titled “Thanks to Mikheil Saakashvili, Richard Lugar and the United States of America” could no longer be found on these links, which makes one assume that these media outlets deleted the information after Paata Imnadze’s comment.
The reports that Paata Imnadze extended thanks to the third President of Georgia are wrong. Paata Imnadze denied making such statement while the regional news agencies (odishinews, guriismoambe) deleted this information later. However, an identical story smacking of partisan propaganda is still available on other websites (infonews.ge, gasagebia.ge) and has been spread via several Facebook pages.
CrowdTangle search system shows that such information was spread by Facebook pages Filmebi-Qartulad.Net, საინტერესო გვერდი, (Interesting Page), მთავარი გვერდი (Main Page), “თანამოაზრეთა გაერთიანება საქართველო” (Association of Like-minded Fellows Georgia), კრეატივი (Creative), as well as Odishi TV and Radio.