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Ukraine reproaches Georgia for seeking to renew dairy exports to Russia

7 March 2022
Photo: soplidan.ge

A diplomatic rift between Georgia and Ukraine has widened further after Ukrainian authorities criticised Georgia for mulling the renewal of dairy exports to Russia.

On 5 March, the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision, Rosselkhoznadzor, said lifted a ban on 15 Georgian companies from exporting their products to Russia. 

The move comes amidst unprecedented international sanctions against Russia over their invasion of Ukraine.

On Sunday, the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine urged the Georgian Government to disavow the lifting of the Russian ban.

‘We call on official Tbilisi to distance itself publicly from the decision of the Russian Federation, whose leadership is violating international law and perpetrating war crimes in Ukraine’, they said in a statement.

‘The conduct of business with Russian companies provides Russia with additional resources to continue its atrocious war on Ukraine, and the profit thus earned is soaked in the blood of murdered Ukrainian citizens.’

‘Are the sanctions lifted on 15 Georgian milk companies worth our millennial friendship?’, Ruslan Stefanchuk, chair of the Ukrainian Parliament, asked in a video address.

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‘Hello, Genatsvale — I have always addressed my Georgian colleagues from the Parliament like this. How did it happen, Genatsvale, that in the middle of a war against your brother Ukraine, you decided to trade with the country that attacked us and you?’

The Georgian government has faced a harsh domestic fallout over their actions and rhetoric over the Russian invasion, including their refusal to join western sanctions. This was exacerbated after Georgian PM Irakli Gharibashvili said on 28 February that sanctions ‘were not effective’. 

Thousands have gathered almost daily outside the Georgian Parliament to protest the Russian invasion and the Georgian Government’s response. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Recalling his country’s ambassador to Georgia on 1 March, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Georgia’s decision not to join the sanctions and to block a charter flight scheduled to transport Georgian volunteers to Ukraine ‘immoral’. 

[Read more on OC Media: Ukraine recalls ambassador to Georgia over 'immoral position' of Georgian Government

Sunday’s strongly-worded statement by Ukraine’s foreign ministry went on to contrast the Georgian people — who they said were ‘well aware of the horrors of war that Ukrainians are forced to go through now’ —  to the Georgian authorities, who were ‘trying to seize the moment to cater for their own interests’. 

The ministry linked Russia’s decision to the Georgian Government’s position on sanctions. 

The statement from Kyiv came several hours after the Georgian National Food Agency confirmed that they had been negotiating with Russia on the matter since 2020.

On Sunday, the chair of the opposition Droa party, Elene Khoshtaria, spilt ‘Russian ketchup’ near the entrance of the Georgian Government Chancellery in protest of the decision, only to be promptly apprehended by police. After the party made a repeated attempt, police held two members of Droa under administrative arrest.

Image via Newsreport.

Gharibashvili did not comment on the trade issue during his televised chairing of the cabinet on Monday. Following the meeting, Minister of Agriculture Otar Shamugia called it an ‘opportunity’ for Georgian companies while vowing to work on diversifying export markets for Georgia.

Gharibashvili also did not mention the possible renewal of flights with Russia, something Russian Communist MP Sergey Gavrilov did not rule out on 5 March, provided Georgia would not join sanctions against Russia.  

Russia banned air travel with Georgia weeks after the anti-Russian and anti-government protests in Tbilisi in June 2019, known as Gavrilov’s Night.

The Georgian Government faces continued calls including from liberal group Shame! to join international sanctions against Russia, close Georgian airspace for Russia, to ban ‘Russian propaganda’ channels in the country, and to introduce visas for Russian citizens.