The chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party has relayed a number of demands to the government of Ukraine, including firing several people, before they would consider sending a ‘high-level’ delegation to Bucha to see evidence of Russian war crimes.
During a briefing on Monday evening, Irakli Kobakhidze complained in length about ‘several insulting steps taken by the government of Ukraine’.
Kobakhidze laid out three ‘clear pre-conditions’ that must be addressed before the party would send senior officials to Ukraine.
‘As soon as we see that this issue starts changing, we will then think to consider a high-level visit.’
These were to resolve the situation with Ukraine’s mission to Georgia. Ukraine’s ambassador to Georgia was recalled soon after the war broke out over what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the Georgian government’s ‘immoral position’ on the Russian invasion. The Ambassador was later dismissed and has not been replaced.
Kobakhidze’s second demand was that Ukraine either provides evidence or withdraw an allegation that Georgian authorities were allowing Russia to evade sanctions through Georgia.
Thirdly, Kobakhidze’s laid out what he said was ‘probably the most fundamental issue’ that Ukraine needed to ‘start resolving’, which was that ‘the leaders of the [Georgian] radical opposition, are highly represented in the Ukrainian government’.
He claimed this was ‘the root of the false accusations, the root of the ambassador’s recall, and so on.’
Kobakhidze specified ‘four notable examples’ of this: ‘[Mikheil] Saakashvili, who is the head of the Reform Council in Ukraine, [Zurab] Adeishvili the advisor to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, [Giorgi] Lortkipanidze, the Deputy Head of Counterintelligence, and [Davit] Arakhamia is the person who provides the direct link between these people and the Ukrainian government at the highest level’.
The first three all served in the government of former president Mikheil Saakashvili, while Arakhamia, who was born in Sochi, moved to Ukraine as a child after fleeing the war in Abkhazia. Arakhamia is the head of Ukraine’s ruling Servant of the People Party in parliament and is a member of the team negotiating with Russia.
The following day, Kobakhidze clarified that he was indeed demanding that the people he named should be fired, but claimed that ’there was talk of dismissing three people’ despite him clearly naming the four people in the same context.
‘There was talk of dismissing three people in order to maintain clean relations between the authorities. There was talk of three people, they said the fourth Arakhamia, which was a lie’.
On Tuesday, pro-government TV channel Imedi reported that three members of Georgian Dream would join a cross-party delegation to Ukraine: the deputy chairs of parliament Archil Talakvadze and Davit Sergeenko, and MP Beka Odisharia
Opposition members would include Levan Ioseliani, an MP from the Citizen’s Party, Giorgi Vashadze, leader of Strategy Aghmashenebeli, and Khatia Dekanoidze, a leading MP from the UNM. Imedi reported that at least one representative from each party in parliament would join the delegation.
The spat between the Ukrainian and Georgian governments has been ongoing since the outbreak of the war, with the Ukrainian president criticising Georgia over several issues including their position on sanctions and for attempting to block Georgian volunteers from travelling to fight in Ukraine.
Andrei Kasyanov, Ukraine's Charge d'Affaires in Georgia, said on Friday that he had invited the Georgian Speaker of parliament, Shalva Papuashvili to visit Bucha.
On his Facebook page, Papuashvili wrote that in the light of all the issues on which the Ukrainian and Georgian authorities have differing positions, the ‘the official invitation appears improper while these issues remain unclarified’.
He wrote that the Georgian government did not deserve ‘the attempt by high-ranking officials of the government of Ukraine to differentiate between the Georgian people and government’.
On Monday, Ukraine’s Speaker of Parliament Ruslan Stefanchuk criticised hit back at Papuashvili, citing a verse by the Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli about friendship.