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Georgians rally in support of Ukraine as MPs scramble for response

24 February 2022
A demonstration in solidarity with Ukraine on Tbilisi’s Rustaveli Avenue on 24 February 2022. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of the Georgian capital Tbilisi to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday morning.

Supporters of Ukraine marched along the central Rustaveli Avenue on Thursday evening, forming human chains, waving Ukrainian flags, and lighting yellow and blue flares outside the Parliament building in Tbilisi. A parallel rally was held outside the Ukraine Embassy in Tbilisi.

Earlier on Thursday, demonstrations also took place in the Georgian cities of Kutaisi, Batumi, Zugdidi, Gori, and Poti.

Russian forces moved into Ukraine early on Thursday morning from Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, from Belarus in the north, as well as from Crimea in the South.

[Read on OC Media: Editorial | Russia’s imperialist invasion of Ukraine]

Demonstrators deployed blue and yellow flares. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
People march down Rustaveli. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili said she would convene an extraordinary session of parliament on Friday in response to the crisis, as was demanded by several opposition groups.

Lawmakers from the ruling Georgian Dream party have sent mixed signals about the initiative. It also remains unclear if Georgian lawmakers will agree on the language of a resolution. 

Georgian Dream MPs largely voted alone for the previous parliamentary resolution supporting Ukraine on 1 February, due to controversy over the omission of any mention of Russia. 

[Read more on OC Media: Georgian parliament passes Ukraine resolution without mentioning Russia]

‘Arms supply not a solution’

Criticism of the government has ramped up since Thursday’s invasion over what opposition groups have largely described as their failure to properly protest Russia’s actions.

[Read more on OC Media: Georgia raises the spectre of 2008 following Donetsk and Luhansk recognition

After being challenged on Georgia potentially joining sanctions on Russia in an interview hours before Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili ruled out doing anything that would ‘potentially worsen the situation for the country or work against the interest’ of Georgians. 

During the same interview, which aired hours before Putin announced that he had ordered Russian forces into Ukraine, Gharibashvili went so far as to criticise the supply of arms to Ukraine.

‘As you know, America was the biggest donor in this direction and made the biggest contribution with arms, as well as several European countries. But obviously, this is not enough and generally, I would like to say that supplying arms is not a solution in this situation. Any conflict should be resolved through negotiations’.

The Georgian government also faced criticism on 23 February for criticising the idea of Georgians expressing support to Ukraine during the Russian–Georgian rugby match, slated for Sunday in Tbilisi. The match was eventually cancelled.

[Read more on OC Media: Georgia–Russia rugby match postponed to protect ‘health and safety of players’]

Thursday’s invasion was followed by more strong-worded pro-Ukraine statements from Gharibashvili as well as the Foreign Ministry. The PM called Russia’s actions against Ukraine a ‘blatant violation of international order’ and called on the international community to do everything possible to stop it. 

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