A Georgian parliamentary delegation has visited the war-ravaged Ukrainian cities of Bucha and Irpin, where Parliamentary Speaker Shalva Papuashvili vowed Georgia would not facilitate the evasion of Russian sanctions.
Papuashvili strongly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during his delegation’s visit to the two Ukrainian cities on Saturday. The same day, in a surprise visit, the opposition United National Movement (UNM), Georgia’s largest opposition party, sent its own separate delegation to Kyiv — the delegation included party chair Nika Melia and former president of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili.
‘On behalf of the whole delegation, I would like to express solidarity with brave Ukrainian people, soldiers, government, and personally to my colleague’, Papuashvili said while in Bucha, referring to his counterpart, Ukrainian Parliamentary Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk who received them on 16 April.
The visit to Bucha and Irpin followed the delegation’s meetings with Stefanchuk in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament, in Kyiv earlier that day.
Papuashvili drew comparisons between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with the conflicts over Abkhazia and South Ossetia and underlined a need for a speedy investigation into alleged Russian war crimes.
The speaker was accompanied by three of his deputies, Archil Talakvadze and Davit Sergeenko, representing the ruling Georgian Dream party, and Levan Ioseliani of the Citizens party.
The delegation also included opposition MPs, including Ana Natsvlishvili from Lelo, Vakhtang Mergrelishvili from Girchi, Khatuna Samnidze from Reforms, and Giorgi Khojevanishvili from For Georgia.
In a turnaround from his party’s original position, Papuashvili mentioned Russia by name in a Kyiv press conference.
‘Russia must end this war and respect the unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders, [it must] respect the choice of Ukrainians’, Papuashvili said in Kyiv.
[Read more on OC Media: Georgian parliament passes Ukraine resolution without mentioning Russia]
Georgia is among a triad of countries, including Ukraine and Moldova, to be the latest to apply for a speedy European Union membership. On 17 April, Ukraine became the first of the three countries to send back the membership questionnaire to the EU Commission.
No sanctions but no haven for Russia
Sharing photos taken in Ukrainian cities with his Georgian counterpart Shalva Papuashvili on Facebook, the Stefanchuk wrote that ‘Georgia would not help Russia in any way’, adding that ‘this is the conclusion the Georgian Parliament's Speaker came to after witnessing Bucha and Irpin with his own eyes’.
Stefanchuk noted earlier to have discussed, among other things, ‘a need to institute sanctions against the aggressor country’ during his meeting with Papuashvili in Kyiv.
However, in an interview with Imedi the following day, Papuashvili claimed to have stressed to Stepanchuk that Georgia was deprived of any instrument to influence or damage Russia through sanctions but that he had assured him that ‘Georgia would not become a country where Russia could avoid sanctions’.
The delegation’s visit to Ukraine marked an apparent détente between Georgian and Ukrainian authorities. A diplomatic row between the two was sparked in the early days of the Russian invasion when Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili refused to ‘join sanctions’ against Russia as well as facilitate the departure of Georgian volunteer fighters to Ukraine.
Georgia also refused to close its airspace to Russia.
Tensions between the two countries further deepened in April when Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense accused Georgia’s ‘political leadership’ of allowing ‘Russian agents’ to set up smuggling channels through the country, a claim Georgian authorities have categorically denied.
[Read more on OC Media: Ukrainian intelligence accuses Georgia of allowing Russia to dodge sanctions]
Initially, Georgian Dream denounced Stefanchuk’s call for Georgian MPs and Speaker Papuashvili to visit Bucha, describing it as ‘inappropriate’ given the ‘unsubstantiated’ smuggling claims.
Before Papuashvili’s u-turn on a visit to Ukraine, Georgian Dream Chair Irakli Kobakhidze demanded that Ukraine remove several Georgians with connections to UNM from official government positions in exchange for a ‘high-level delegation’ visit to Ukraine.
[Read more on OC Media: Georgian Dream lays out demands to Ukraine as pre-condition for Bucha visit]
‘The issue of smuggling has already been overcome [with Ukraine]’, Shalva Papuashvili said on Sunday evening. ‘We have agreed […] to verify information with each other in the future.’