Georgia, Once the Victim of a Putin Invasion, Won’t Sanction Russia

Ukrainians and Georgians gather for a rally in support of Ukraine in front of parliament, protesting the war in Ukraine and demanding the Georgian Prime Minister, Irakli Gharibashvili, to step down, after he said he would not introduce sanctions against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine on February …
Daro Sulakauri/Getty Images

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili told reporters on Friday his country’s government will not join those of other nations in imposing sanctions on Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, TASS news agency reported.

“We have familiarized ourselves with the actions of our international partners following the launch of military action in Ukraine, meaning economic and financial sanctions [against Russia]. I want to make it clear and unambiguous that in light of [our] national interests, Georgia does not intend to participate in financial and economic sanctions,” Garibashvili said on February 25.

Russia’s military invaded neighboring Ukraine in the early morning hours of February 24, sparking international condemnation in the form of sanctions. The governments of the U.S., the U.K., the E.U., Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and Taiwan have all announced the imposition of various sanctions against Russia since Thursday.

Garibashvili said on Friday Georgia’s decision to not participate in the global sanction movement against Russia was made “in light of national interests.” Georgia’s national interests include two Russian-backed breakaway regions known as South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the country’s north. Russia has wielded an outsized influence over the two separatist states since 2008, when Georgia failed to assert dominance over the regions in the Russo-Georgian War. Moscow ordered troops into South Ossetia at the start of the short war before the action escalated into a wider conflict that spilled into Georgia’s national capital, Tbilisi.

The trajectory of the Russia-Ukraine conflict launched this week seems to have mirrored that of the Russo-Georgian War, at least so far. Moscow sent forces into Ukraine’s Russian-backed breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk on February 21 before initiating a wider invasion of the neighboring country on February 24 that has since reached Kyiv, Ukraine’s national capital.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian soldiers into Donetsk and Luhansk on Monday after announcing his decision to formally recognize their independence from Ukraine. The two separatist regions — which call themselves the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) — are located in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili compared the 2008 Russo-Georgian War with Ukraine’s latest war with Russia in a statement posted by his official Twitter page on February 21.

The statement read:

The recognition of #Donetsk and #Luhansk by Russia is another step directed against the fundamental principles of international law and unfortunately repeats the occupation of Georgian territories in 2008. We strongly support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 during the presidential tenure of ex-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been imprisoned in Georgia since October 2021 on corruption charges he vehemently denies. Saakashvili launched his second hunger strike while in prison on February 21 to protest Georgian prison authorities’ “treatment of him,” specifically their alleged failure to provide him with adequate medical care.

The ex-president, who observers have blamed for his failure to lead Georgia in deterring Russia’s advance on South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008, launched his first hunger strike in early October 2021. That hunger strike lasted about 50 days and served as Saakashvili’s protest against what he described as his “illegal detention” by Georgian police on October 1, 2021, for corruption charges.

Saakashvili ended his first hunger strike on November 19, 2021, after Georgian authorities agreed to transfer the politician from a prison hospital to a military hospital. The ex-president needed medical treatment at the time because his hunger strike had increased his risk “of heart failure, internal bleeding and coma,” Georgia’s human rights commissioner noted on November 17, 2021.


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