Demonstrations in Georgia planned to show solidarity with Ukraine have taken on a decidedly anti-government tone over the authorities’ lack of response to the Russian invasion.
Following a pro-Ukraine rally on Thursday, thousands of Georgians hit the streets of central Tbilisi again on Friday evening to protest what Droa, one of the opposition groups behind the demonstrations, called the ‘Russian Dream’ — a reference to the ruling Georgian Dream Party.
Government critics including opposition parties the United National Movement (UNM), Lelo, Girchi — More Freedom, the Labour Party, and European Georgia, have condemned the government for not taking a stronger position in support of Ukraine.
On Friday, Georgian Dream MPs boycotted an extraordinary session of parliament called by the President to discuss the situation Ukraine, leading to a lack of quoram.
Georgian Dream lawmakers said the sitting, which was requested by the opposition, would be ‘just for show’.
Anger grew further still after Prime Minister Irakli Gharibasvhili, upon his visit to a memorial to Georgian soldiers killed by Soviet Army in 1921, vowed that Georgia would not join Western sanctions on Russia.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, countries around the world have introduced wide-ranging sanctions on the country, including on Russian banks, senior government and military officials, major state-owned companies, and prominent oligarchs.
[Read more on OC Media: Georgian government refuses to introduce sanctions on Russia]
Also on Friday, UNM MP Khatia Dekanoidze launched an online petition for Georgians to show their disagreement with Gharibashvili’s vow not to sanction Russia.
Before crowds gathered outside Parliament on Friday, police detained Badri Grigalashvili from Girchi for holding a poster saying ‘We fuck Gharibashvili’s mother’.
The Shame Movement, a Georgian liberal group and co-organiser of the protests, called on Georgians to abstain from consuming Russian-made products and services.
In the city of Rustavi, adjacent to Tbilisi, some left graffiti was left on the wall of a branch of Russian state-owned VTB Bank, calling on Georgians to withdraw their money from it.
[Read more on OC Media: Georgian National bank vows to assist sanctions-hit VTB Bank]
Many Georgians expressing their frustration with the government recalled then–Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko being present in Tbilisi, together with other European leaders, as the Russian army advanced to the outskirts of the city during the August 2008 War.
For Georgia party chair Giorgi Gakharia, who as Interior Minister in 2018 oversaw the heavy-handed dispersal of anti-government and anti-Russia protests in Tbilisi, also weighed in with an appeal to Ukrainians.
‘The statement by Georgia’s Prime Minister does not coincide with the sentiment among the Georgian people. Georgian people stand with Ukrainians. As for those undermining this unity, they are playing into hands of the aggressors and will by all means be held responsible for it’.