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Georgia raises the spectre of 2008 following Donetsk and Luhansk recognition

22 February 2022
A demonstration in Tbilisi on 27 January calling on the government to take a harder line on Russia’s actions towards Ukraine. Photo: Shota Kincha/OC Media.

Officials and opposition leaders in Georgia have widely condemned Russia’s decision to recognise Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states, comparing the situation to Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia following the August 2008 War.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent on Monday evening, ordering Russian troops to enter the regions. 

Writing on Twitter on Monday evening, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili condemned Russia’s decision as a violation of international law and 'repeats the occupation of Georgian territories in 2008'.

The Prime Minister's statement was much more pointed than the ruling Georgian Dream party’s previous statement in support of Ukraine which carefully avoided any mention of Russia.

[Read also on OC Media: Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh hail Donbas recognition and Armenian and Azerbaijani officials silent on Donbas recognition]

In Georgia, parallels have been drawn to the 2008 August War, which saw Russian troops push to the outskirts of Tbilisi following the outbreak of hostilities in South Ossetia. The war was followed by Russian recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili also spoke out in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity on Monday.

The Orbeliani Palace was draped with the Ukrainian flag on Tuesday in solidarity with Ukraine.

She wrote on Twitter that Putin’s decision was ‘repeating the scenario that led to the occupation of 20% of our territory’.

Opposition parties were also widely united in condemnation of Russia.

Giorgi Gakharia, the former prime minister and current leader of the opposition For Georgia Party, wrote that '[the] West should not repeat the same mistakes as in 2008. Allies must act now! We #StandwithUkraine!’

The Droa party, led by Elene Khoshtaria, meanwhile, urged the international community to continue to supply weapons to Ukraine and to step up sanctions on Russia.

‘We urge our international partners to use personal as well as economic, financial and diplomatic sanctions as an immediate, effective and unified response to the Kremlin’s aggression’, the party said in a statement.

Members of the Droa, Lelo, and Girchi — More Freedom parties and liberal groups Shame!, Shetsvale (change!), and the Democracy Defenders signing a pro-Ukraine petition outside Parliament in Tbilisi on 28 January.

Libertarian party Girchi for More Freedom released a short statement saying: ‘Fuck Putin’s mother’.

The reaction was not entirely unanimous. 

Earlier on Monday, before Putin recognised Donetsk and Luhansk, the conservative Alliance of Patriots party released an open letter to Putin criticising NATO and calling for more engagement with Russia.

The letter was signed by representatives of 53 local organisations, including the far-right Georgian March and several minor political parties.

An election billboard showing Alliance of Patriots leaders Davit Tarkhan-Mouravi and Irma Inashvili that was defaced during the 2020 election campaign for being ‘pro-Russian’. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

‘Realising that Georgia, without cooperation with Russia, will not be able to cope with either regional or, even more so, global challenges, we strive for close cooperation with Russia and would like to meet with the leadership of the [Russian Parliament] in order to make a small but feasible contribution to the formation of an effective system of regional security’, the latter said.

‘Mr President [Vladimir Putin], we appeal to you in the hope of your assistance and once again ask you to accept the assurances of our highest consideration’, it concluded.

The Alliance of Patriots, which won four seats in the 2020 parliamentary elections, though they declined to take them up, has long expressed pro-Russian foreign policy views. 

In August 2021, the party penned a similar open letter to the Russian president calling for the restoration of diplomatic ties between Georgia and Russia and the deepening of cultural ties.

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