skip to content

President Zurabishvili: Russia Receives Ambiguous Signals From Georgian Authorities

Salome Zurabishvili gave interview to the Ukrainian news magazine Ukrainska Pravda, in which she spoke about Georgia-Ukraine relations, Georgian internal developments, Georgia’s relations with Russia and EU, and other pertinent topics.

She began by admitting that relations between the two countries were “not entirely satisfactory” and expressed the willingness to visit Ukraine to show solidarity if the occasion arises, such as the Crimean Platform, noting however that she has not received an invitation from the Ukrainian president yet.

Asked whether the decision to greenlight the direct flights with Russia, in particular with the air company Azimuth, which is sanctioned by Ukraine, is a “betrayal” of not only Ukraine but also of Georgia whose regions are occupied by Russian forces, Zurabishvili said that she “objected publicly and very seriously to this step” as well as to others, which “are not in line with the Georgian vision of its future, the Georgian vision of who its partners are”.

She also said that “there is a clear distance that is growing” between Georgian authorities and the will of the people”, stressing that she represents people’s will much better than the current authorities.

President Zurabishvili avoided answering the question of whether sanctioning by Ukraine of the Georgian authorities would be justified, saying that as a President she cannot promote sanctioning of the country’s authorities.

She credited Ukraine and its people’s “struggle to overcome Russian aggression” with being so close to the European Union and expressed “strong conviction” that Georgia and Ukraine will join the Union together, stressing this is the mandate the current government has been elected to fulfil by the Georgian people. She said: “We would never have been so close to the European Union if it were not for the struggle of the Ukrainian people.”

Asked about the next possible steps in the rapprochement between Georgia and Russia Zurabishvili brushed them off as rumors saying that “Russia has felt there is some room for maneuver and are now poking”. She also said Russia is losing the war with Ukraine, in fact, it already lost politically, psychologically, and internationally, and is going to lose militarily as well.

Describing the behavior of the Georgian authorities in these circumstances, Zurabishvili said that they are sending “ambiguous, to say the least,” signals to Russia, and the latter is now “poking to see how far they can go.” She then added that she believes Georgia should not show a lack of determination, as it “encourages Russia to try to test how far it can go.”  Zurabishvili admitted that “they [Russians] are maybe going to try the railway or other things” and she will certainly oppose this, admitting she does not have the executive powers to effectively stop that.

When asked whether Ukrainian government is asking Georgia to open a second front, the President replied that this assertion doesn’t make sense. She said she believes that after the victory of Ukraine, the peace talks will include the issue of Russia abandoning all territories it currently occupies “because if Russia does not recognize once and for all that it cannot occupy territories of its neighbors, smaller or bigger, then Russia will remain Russia.” Which, she specified, means that in five or ten years, it will be waging new wars.

Zurabishvili said such peace talks is the way through which she imagines the restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity will happen, saying she does not believe in militarily reclaiming these territories.

On Mikheil Saakashvili and her reluctance to pardon him, she said she is accountable to the Georgian people, many of whom have been victims of his “regime” and this is an issue “that still polarizes the Georgian population.” She said: “The feeling of the population is that he has to pay for some of the crimes that were committed during his regime” all the while noting that „there is a feeling that he should be treated decently and that a solution should be found“ and that she’s been trying to employ her diplomatic connections to that end.

On Nika Gvaramia’s case she said: “It’s a completely different situation”. She noted that a President cannot pardon under pressure” stressing: “the less pressure from outside, the better for pardoning” and noting: “… I will act when I decide either to do it or not to do it. “

When directly asked whether she thinks that the prosecution of journalists presents a real danger for Georgian democracy, Zurabishvili said that “there are many dangers at this point for Georgian democracy” noting: “Of course, I’m in favor of freedom of expression” and “freedom of expression is probably the one right that we should all defend.” She then recalled: “I have myself been the target of very excessive words from this journalist” noting that he “was not only a journalist: he was also a prosecutor at different times, and not a prosecutor that administered real justice.”

On NATO and whether Gorgia has given up on its membership aspirations, Zurabishvili said nobody can change the orientation of Georgia, which is inscribed in its Constitution. She said she is sure that “Ukraine is going to progress on that path probably faster” than Georgia due to “what it has shown in recent months” and expressed hope for security guarantees deliverables at the NATO Vilnius Summit.

Asked whether Georgia had moved closer to the EU in the past year and a half, given its problems, including the “foreign agents” law, President Zurabishvili said: “We have preoccupying gestures from the authorities” but a large part of the population is in favor of European integration and thanks to Ukraine’s resolve “what was a long-term prospect has suddenly become something that is at hand.”

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


Back to top button