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Georgian Government ‘barred’ president from official visits to European capitals

14 March 2022
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili addressing parliament on 14 March 2022. Photo: IPN.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has slammed the government, accusing them of preventing her from making official visits to European capitals to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at a plenary session of parliament on Monday, the president announced that the government had refused to allow working visits to Paris, Brussels, Berlin, and Warsaw on 26 February.

‘When the need is huge and time is short, the restrictions on the president’s international activities are incomprehensible,’ she said. 

In her speech, Zurabishvili explained that she had had to use ‘personal contacts’ and turned her planned visits into ‘personal meetings’ outside of her official capacity.

The President attended the plenary session with the temporary representative of the Ukrainian Embassy in Georgia, Andrey Kasyanov, who is standing in for the ambassador following his recall to Kyiv.

Zurabishvili’s speech was met with anger from government officials. Irakli Kobakhidze, the chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party, told journalists after the plenary session that the president had ‘violated the constitution’ and that the party would ‘look into’ the issue.

Georgian Dream’s parliamentary leader, Mamuka Mdinaradze, said the president had ‘disrespected’ parliament by bringing the Ukrainian representative with her.

However, she received praise from former Prime Minister and now opposition leader Giorgi Gakharia, who said he was ‘grateful to the President of Georgia for her leadership in this challenging times for Georgia and its future’.

Zurabishvili has been outspoken in her support of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, harshly criticising both the government and the opposition for their policies and actions towards Ukraine.

‘Society is much soberer than you, conscious, brave, and most importantly, united. Today we see that the signs of a national accord have already been awakened in the people, but I do not see it in you yet’, the president said in her speech. 

‘Don't you understand what duties you all bear together towards your people? And today both sides, both the ruling party and the opposition, sin and sin against the country!'

Zurabishvili accused the government of bias and of branding the opposition ‘traitors’ and ‘a party of war’ instead of seeking compromise.

The president also appealed to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to return the Ukrainian ambassador to Georgia ‘to make the connection between our two nations in these difficult moments completely stronger, to be closer and more unwavering’.

On 1 March, Ukraine recalled its ambassador in Tbilisi, Igor Dolgov, over what Zelensky called the Georgian government’s ‘immoral position’ regarding the Russian invasion, as well as Georgia’s decision to block a charter flight scheduled to bring Georgian volunteer fighters to Ukraine.

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