According to the government of Ingushetia, Russia’s North Caucasus republic, “Russo-Georgian Business Council” hosted a meeting dedicated to strengthening tourism and cultural ties between Georgia and Russia’s Ingushetia. The Ingushetia government said on December 1 that the event “brought together representatives of authorities and the tourism industry of both countries, including delegations from the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, the National Fund for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage and the Development of Sustainable Tourism and other structures”. While mentioning the participants from the Russian side, the news item fails to mention who the Georgian participants were.
The Russo-Georgian Business Council was established in February 2023 and, alongside Russian officials, brings together businesspeople who represent the Georgian diaspora in Russia. According to official records, the Council is headed by one Yuri Balashov, listed as board chairman of the “Innovation Company RUMB Ltd.,” which is based in Russia’s town of Dubna since 2019. It reportedly is a small company that mainly works on producing navigation, meteorological, and geodesic equipment.
“The council discussed various aspects of cooperation in the field of tourism, including infrastructure development, service improvement, attracting investment, promotion of tourist routes and partnership programs between regions. Particular attention was paid to the exchange of experience and best practices in the field of tourism in order to strengthen cultural ties and increase the flow of tourists,” the Ingushetia government added in the statement.
“I am confident that our meeting today within the framework of the Russian-Georgian Business Council will be a key step towards the development of cultural dialogue and mutual understanding between our peoples,” Yuri Balashov, the Russo-Georgia business council head is quoted as saying.
While the official press release from the Ingushetia authorities omits this detail, photographic evidence circulating in the media suggests that Davit Tsetskhladze, the head of the Georgian diaspora in Russia, was present at the meeting.
“On May 26, 1994, 8 Georgian workers working on the construction of the Transcaucasian road were shot dead in the mountains of Ingushetia (pictured). It was a deliberate terrorist act to prevent the construction of a new road. This the road of “friendship” sooner or later, despite all the unwilling, will still be built. P.s. the terrorist group was not from Ingushetia, but from another region,” Tsetskhladze wrote on his Meta account in the description of the photo allegedly posted on December 1 and taken in front of the memorial to the aforementioned deceased workers.
The meeting featured senior Russian officials. According to the official information from the Ingushetia government, the event was attended by First Deputy Prime Minister of Ingushetia Oleg Fursov, Chairman of the Russian-Georgian Business Council Yuri Balashov (who visited Georgian in March 2023, lobbying for resumption of direct flights between the countries, simplification of the visa regime for businessmen, as well as the development of Georgia’s transit potential due to periodic queues at the Upper Larsi border crossing), Vice President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vladimir Padalko, Deputy Director of the Department of Multilateral Economic Cooperation and Special Projects of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Igor Maksimov, Vice President of the Russian Union of Tourism Industry Dmitry Gorin , President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Ingushetia Radmila Nalgieva, Chief Federal Inspector for the Republic of Ingushetia Vitaly Smirnov and others.
Earlier, on September 19, the “Russo-Georgian Business Council,” held a session in Vladikavkaz, in Russia’s North Caucasus. Vladimir Padalko, Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce, stressed the need for expanding the transport links with and through Georgia, while the local media reported that Georgia was increasingly becoming “a logistical hub to the world” for Russia.
Infrastructure development in the region, and in particular the construction of a new road linking Russia and Georgia, was the subject of an alleged telephone conversation, leaked to the Georgian media in February 2023, between Grigory Karasin, chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, and Zurab Abashidze, the Georgian Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Russia. Abashidze confirmed the authenticity of the audio recording.
- 20/09/2023 – “Russo-Georgian Business Council” Ponders Expansion of Transport Links to Georgia
- 02/02/2023 – Karasin-Abashidze Audio Recording Sparks Opposition Criticism