Russia rails at Georgian minister's 'stripper' photos

The Russian media has seized upon a raunchy photograph – of the Georgian Economy Minister posing in a nightclub – to release a fresh torrent of criticism at President Mikheil Saakashvili for appointing "strippers" to his cabinet.

Mr Saakashvili appointed 28-year-old Vera Kobalia to the ministerial post this month. Ms Kobalia, an ethnic Georgian, had lived in Canada for 15 years and has no previous experience in politics. She is said to have met Mr Saakashvili during his trip to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in February.

A photograph, apparently taken from Ms Kobalia's Facebook page, has been published by a newspaper in Georgia. It shows the minister, her sister and three friends posing. The Russian state-controlled media, which gives wide coverage to any story that paints President Saakashvili in a negative light, jumped on the story and insisted that the picture was taken in a Vancouver strip club.

Ms Kobalia claimed the photo was taken almost 10 years while she was on holiday in Florida. "If the worst thing that the opposition or anyone else can find about me is my old picture from college than I don't see anything wrong with that," she said.

In the photograph, the minister is wearing a dress and there is no indication that she took part in a striptease. There is also no indication from the photograph that it was taken in a strip club, nor any idea in which city or when it was taken.

Ms Kobalia's biography indicates that before leaving Canada for Georgia she worked for a local TV channel and ran a business. This didn't stop the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda running a story yesterday headlined "From Strippers to Ministers" and other Russian news outlets followed with similar stories. The minister herself could not be reached for comment yesterday.

At the time of her appointment, many experts expressed amazement that such a key ministry could be entrusted to a political neophyte. "Think how ambitious a person has to be to take the position of the head of the main economic body in the country, without having either the necessary education or any experience whatsoever," said Nodar Dzhavakhishvili, the former head of the Georgian National Bank, at the time. "I think anyone could find someone in their family who was far more experienced and qualified in this field than Ms Kobalia."

But Mr Saakashvili, who was just 36 when he took over as Georgian President after the Rose Revolution in late 2003, has made a habit of appointing ministers in their twenties and thirties. He claims that catapulting the young generation into power is an integral part of his project to build a new type of country and wipe out the Soviet legacy. "The plan is to have nobody in government who served during the Soviet period," said Mr Saakashvili last autumn. "Some of them don't even remember the Soviet period."

In Tbilisi, observers say that Ms Kobalia has started positively in the job and during her first weeks has shown a ruthless streak. On visiting the Tbilisi tourism information centre, she discovered most of the employees had gone to a jazz festival in a Black Sea resort. She immediately fired the entire staff, according to one local news agency.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project