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The Daily Beat: 26 February

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze announced that China had granted visa-free travel to Georgian citizens. PM Kobakhidze described China’s introduction of a visa-free regime as an important decision, creating new opportunities for further development of political, economic, and cultural ties between the two countries. According to the Prime Minister, Georgian citizens will enjoy traveling to China without a visa for an uninterrupted period of 30 days.

Speaking at a government meeting, PM Irakli Kobakhidze spoke about the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine, highlighting the devastation and destruction of war-torn Ukraine and wishing the country sovereignty and peace without mentioning a victory. At the same time, the Prime Minister noted that over these two years, Georgia also went through a kind of war with radical opposition and its friends to maintain peace. He also slammed the opposition representatives by comparing them with Bolshevik leaders of Georgian ethnicity who helped the Soviet Army invade the country in 1921.   

Responding to the journalists’ questions at the event “Fighting for Freedom, Defending Europe – War in Ukraine and the Role of its Partners in Defending Ukraine & Euro-Atlantic Security,” EU Ambassador to Georgia Paweł Herczyński spoke of Georgia’s foreign policy alignment with the EU’s Common Foreign and Security, stressing that “for the moment, the alignment rate is rather low” compared to that of the other countries seeking EU membership.

Commenting on the statements of the Armenian side regarding the suspension of membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Belarussian leader Aleksandr Lukashenka expressed satisfaction with the normalization of Georgia-Russia relations. “Thank God Georgia is establishing normal relations, primarily with Russia, with us as well, and the economy is booming. The Americans have already forgotten about Georgia,” said Lukashenka, adding that it was easy for Georgia to leave the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), but now it is difficult to reverse that decision and return to the CIS.  

Speaking on the ruling Georgian Dream’s mouthpiece, Imedi TV, Chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC), Giorgi Kalandarishvili, said that an unidentified assailant had allegedly attempted to harm him several days earlier, echoing the ruling party’s claim that members of the opposition were trying to “get rid” of CEC Chair and seize control of the CEC. According to the CEC Chair, opposition representatives seek to abolish the position of the CEC’s Deputy Chairman, which used to be occupied by an opposition representative.

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) released an assessment of its first pre-election mission to Georgia, outlining challenges, including “polarization, verbal attacks on civil society (including citizen observers), fears about the possible misuse of administrative resources for political advantage, and concerns around the implementation of new electoral technologies.” Among the positive signs, the NDI highlighted “broad public support for democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” as well as sustained positive public impression of the police.

President Salome Zurabishvili continues to hold consultations in the framework of her “Unity Platform for Europe,” meeting with the leader of the UNM parliamentary faction, Tina Bokuchava, and the leader of the “Strategy Agmashenebeli” party, Giorgi Vashadze. On February 25, she also met with Davit Usupashvili, an MP from the “Lelo” party, Ana Dolidze, the leader of the “For People” movement, as well as Tina Khidasheli, the founder of the NGO “Civic Idea.”

The leader of the “Lelo” party and one of the founders of TBC Bank, Mamuka Khazaradze, claimed that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) declared his and Badri Japaridze’s application admissible. The application refers to a money laundering case initiated against Khazaradze and his business partner, Japaridze, in 2019. In January 2022, the defendants were acquitted of a money laundering charge by the Tbilisi City Court but found guilty of fraud justified by the statute of limitations, which they believed was politically motivated, and appealed in the ECHR.


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