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Eastern Express 18.07

In response to the Russian invasion, Georgian leadership declared solidarity with Ukraine. The Prime Minister condemned Moscow’s actions and called for de-escalation, and the President called the events that occurred a common tragedy for Ukraine and Georgia. However, Tbilisi did not join the anti-Russian sanctions announced by Western states and institutions. At the same time, thousands of Georgians are fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainians to repel the invaders. They are the most numerous nation in the Ukrainian army, just after the Ukrainians themselves.

On April 7, Georgia voted in the UN General Assembly to suspend Russia’s membership of the Human Rights Council; on May 5, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili took part in a donor conference for Ukraine held in Warsaw and presented data on the aid provided by Georgia. President Salome Zurabishvili has numerous times emphasised similarities linking Georgia and Ukraine. Sometime earlier, on March 3 March, Georgia and Moldova, following Ukraine’s example, officially applied for membership in the European Union.

On the battlefield, Georgian and Ukrainian troops often fight side by side. Back in April 2014, the Georgian Legion was formed during the first Russian invasion and expanded in 2016 with the passage of the “Act on the Integration of Foreigners into the Ukrainian Army”. Today, the Georgian Legion is the largest foreign unit in the Ukrainian army.

On the other hand, Georgia’s politics sometimes seem to greet Vladimir Putin with a gentle smile while frowning disapprovingly at the West.

Georgia is regularly accused of violating sanctions and enabling Russia to circumvent them. Tbilisi rejects these accusations, responding that although it has not introduced sanctions itself, it respects internationally accepted arrangements. At the beginning of April, a statement from the Intelligence Ministry of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine stated that channels were being established on Georgian territory for the purposes of smuggling sanctioned goods to Russia, including military equipment. The number of newly registered companies in Georgia has increased by 70 per cent since February, appearing to confirm that there may be some truth to these claims, as some of these companies might just be in the business of dodging sanctions.

The European Union is aware of the fact that Georgians hold European values close to their heart, as evidenced by their attachment to the idea of European integration. But the Georgian government also stands accused of abusing former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in prison, arresting directors of independent Georgian media and blackmailing opposition politicians.

Eastern Express’ guest

Giorgi Kanashvili, a Georgian political scientist, was invited by TVP World to shed more light on the issue.

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