Georgia’s President Salome Zurabishvili has reiterated solidarity to Kyiv and “understanding to what’s happening today to the Ukrainian people.”
“Because we probably more than many understand what it means,” President Zurabishvili said.
The President’s remarks came during her half-an-hour interview with Tbilisi-based international media on the evening of February 22, which largely focused on Russian driven escalation in and around Ukraine.
“We Should Not Be Forgotten”
President Zurabishvili said amid ongoing crisis “everybody is recalling Georgia’s experience, scenario – although a bit different – it’s the scenario that Russia has been using and repeating.”
She said “although open crisis clearly concerns Ukraine… when it comes to thinking about future, the way out of the crisis, it is clear that Georgia has to be in the mind of everyone.”
“We have historical ties, we have very similar issues, and problems, and future. And we need to remain very close,” she said.
President Zurabishvili also noted that Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia are “clearly linked” to each other in their relation with the EU, as well as path to NATO.
The President said amid recent talks between the West and Russia over “security guarantees,” she advocated that “nothing is decided considering Georgia without Georgia being fully informed.”
“In the pretensions that Russia has presented during the phase of negotiations there are certainly things that could concern Georgia because we are linked to Ukraine,” she said.
Georgia’s President has revealed that she communicated with Polish President Andrzej Duda, as well as with French President Emmanuel Macron and “made it very clear that we should not be forgotten.”
On Western Sanctions and Georgia’s Position
Zurabishvili endorsed the West’s sanctions against Russia over the recognition of occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.
“Sanctions is the answer when you are democratic countries and you do not answer to war with war,” the President asserted.
But she said, if there is a lesson to be learnt from 2008 in Georgia and 2014 in Ukraine, “our Western partners did not use all the possibility they had at that time.”
“And the cost to Russia was not such to deter Russia from doing it again.”
Asked whether Georgia should join the countries imposing sanctions on Russia, Georgian President said: “I cannot answer for the government and certainly, it’s an issue for the government.”
Albeit stressing that “we have to share solidarity,” President Zurabishvili recalled “we are the country that is already paying its share, we have two occupied regions and we have responsibility towards this situation and our citizens that live on the occupation line.”
“And we know what Russia can do,” she added.
“We have to balance the need to be in full solidarity with our partners and the need to be responsible to our own security and population.”
Government’s Approach to Russia-Ukraine Crisis
Zurabishvili said “I cannot disagree with the pragmatic approach” when dealing with the current crisis around Ukraine.
“We have two territories occupied, we have population that is suffering, we have our citizens in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali not allowed to access Georgian language, our citizens aren’t allowed to have access to Abkhazian language, Russification policies are going on in very active way,” Georgia’s President explained.
She continued that “we have two huge military bases on both territories, and Russia started some steps that are going in a direction of annexation.”
“So, I think the government has to be responsible. I don’t think that it warrants not to talk about ones principles. That is balance and it’s not an easy balance.”
2008 Déjà Vu
Asked about how “the same scenario unfolding” in Ukraine makes her feel as the Georgian President, Zurabishvili replied “déjà vu.”
“Even if there are differences in the scenario… Maybe Russia of 2008 was not exactly the same as Russia of 2022.”
She said this time in Ukraine “Russia is moving directly to the annexation even without the pretext of the war, which means that we are step higher.”
“Declarations of President Putin yesterday on television are for everyone something that we have to worry about,” Zurbaishvili stressed.
“Whole of Europe, and there I fully agree with President Zelenskyy, should realize that here it is not only at stake Georgia or Ukraine, at stake is the future and security of Europe,” Salome Zurabishvili noted.
“We are all in the same boat,” she added.