PM Lashes Out at Opposition MPs After Grilling Over Ukraine Support, Sanctions

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on May 27 lashed out at the opposition lawmakers after facing grilling at the Parliament over the Government’s support to Ukraine and stance on sanctions against Russia, among others. 

During question time, United National Movement lawmaker Khatia Dekanoidze lambasted PM Garibashvili over his February 28 remarks that “sanctions are not effective means” to stop Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

These measures are imposed by our partners in the U.S. and the EU, she said, adding that “when you say that sanctions do not work, you put Georgia’s national interests at risk.”

“Political statements mean a lot in a country that is supposed to be a very important partner of Ukraine,” the UNM lawmaker asserted.

Citizens party chair Aleko Elisashvili was another MP to slam the Prime Minister for his controversial remarks about sanctions. The lawmaker, who recently returned to Georgia after volunteering to fight in Ukraine, argued that the Prime Minister’s statements had “significantly worsened relations” with Kyiv.

He also criticized the GD Government for being “too careful” in its stance on Russia. “Whatever you may do, say, carry out, if Russia decides to oppress us and launch a military operation against us, no one can change the mind of this evil man, Putin.”

Against this backdrop, Elisashvili argued that Georgia is missing an opportunity to provide Ukraine with military aid, and in turn have its supplies replenished with Western armaments. He further stressed the need to provide the embattled country with at least Georgian-made non-lethal equipment — helmets and armored medical evacuation vehicles.

He also slammed the authorities over “broken-down” civilian defense infrastructure: “Do we have an alarms system, shelters, supplies? […] Why are we so carefree? What are we hoping for?”

Meanwhile, Lelo MP Ana Natsvlishvili urged the PM to elaborate on “what legislative and administrative steps Georgia has taken,” and whether the authorities have an action plan and monitoring and inter-agency coordination systems in place to prevent possible attempts by Russia to evade sanctions through the country.

“A state is not run with oral statements or promises, a state is run with documents and legislative acts,” she remarked.

“We need to be sure that Georgia has a coordination system and a sound legal framework, so that we do not turn into a black hole,” the Lelo lawmaker asserted.

PM Lashes Out at Opposition

In his response remarks, the Prime Minister claimed the opposition’s concerns over Georgia’s refusal to impose sanctions on Russia, denial of a chartered flight to carry volunteers to Ukraine and assisting the embattled country with weapons “served only one aim – for war to begin in Georgia somehow.” 

“If not for our government, there would be a second Mariupol in Georgia, [and] all these people would be responsible for it,” PM Garibashvili said in his closing remarks, referring to the opposition lawmakers. 

“You are bankrupt… you have nothing in reality,” the PM told the lawmakers, going on to claim that the “only lever” the opposition had left was to “somehow involve our country in the war.”

The Prime Minister also reiterated ruling Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze’s claim that former President Mikheil Saakashvili, now incarcerated, returned from self-imposed exile back to Georgia in October 2021 to “organize a revolution and destabilize our country.” 

“It was planned that Russia would invade Ukraine in November or December,” he claimed, adding “there was a plan that if destabilization started here… a war would begin in the country.” 

The Prime Minister also lambasted the Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry over its two separate accusations against Georgia of aiding Russia to evade sanctions. “We heard another dirty libel against our Government … zero evidence, zero facts.”

Responding to Lelo MP Ana Natsvlishvili, PM Garibashvili that “these people, people like her, fake patriots are making [false] statements so that the key words ‘there are black holes in Georgia’ make it to headlines.” 

“This is enmity, betrayal of our country’s national interests,” the PM went on. “None of you serve the country’s interests. If you wanted our country to receive EU [candidate] status, you would act differently.”

Referring to his own earlier claims that the opposition lawmakers were campaigning in Brussels against Georgia receiving the EU candidacy, PM Garibashvili now said that Lelo MP Salome Samadashvili “was directly mentioned” when he was “told in the European Parliament that “this and other people [from the opposition] are deliberately hostile to Georgia.”

The Georgian PM also asked the opposition whether they understood if by imposing bilateral sanctions against Russia “these sanctions would be imposed on the one million [Georgians] living in Russia and the four million of our fellow citizens living in” Georgia.

Support to Ukraine

In his opening remarks ahead of the questions, the Georgian Prime Minister expressed “firm support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”

“Russia’s full-scale military aggression against Ukraine is a gross violation of fundamental norms and principles of international law, as well as of the UN charter, which poses an unprecedented challenge to the European security architecture,” he remarked.

Speaking about support to Ukraine, the Prime Minister said Georgia has sent up to 1,000 tons of humanitarian aid to the country and shelters up to 28,000 Ukrainians. He noted the Government has allocated USD 7 million to care for the Ukrainian refugees, and will allot the same amount for aid to Ukraine through 2022.

As for sanctions, the Prime Minister said Georgia has been aligned since 2014 with the EU’s restrictive measures on Russian-annexed Sevastopol and Crimea, and joined on February 28 the bloc’s restrictions on economic relations with areas of occupied Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts not controlled by the Ukrainian government. 

But PM Garibashvili again rejected imposing bilateral sanctions against Russia “considering our national interests.” 

Recalling Georgia’s 14.4% real GDP growth in the first quarter of 2022, growth in trade turnover, and appreciation of the national currency Lari, the PM questioned the opposition if they had “any idea” of the possible consequences had the GD Government “acted foolishly” and imposed economic sanctions against Russia two months ago.”

In his speech, PM Garibashvili said however that “we will not allow unlawful activities of any sanctioned individuals or companies on Georgian territory.”

“We will not allow any sanctioned company or an individual to use Georgia for sanctions evasion,” he stressed, adding that as things stand, “no instances [of sanctions evasion] have been recorded.”

In this context, the Prime Minister also argued that Georgia has beefed up its customs control, especially by adding new equipment and staff at the Kazbegi crossing point linking the country with Russia. 

“Any type of goods, both military or dual-use, as well as any products included on the list of sanctions by participating countries, are under strict customs control,” he added.

Speaking about Georgia’s support to Ukraine on the international fora, the Prime Minister said Tbilisi has co-sponsored UN resolutions condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and on humanitarian consequences of the aggression, backed suspending Moscow from the UN Human Rights Council and the Council of Europe

In total, the PM said Georgia has made, co-sponsored, aligned with, or backed up to 235 statements and resolutions in support of Ukraine at international organizations, including in the UN, OSCE and the CoE.

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