‘We are not our government’: Georgians slam Ukraine war response

As the government takes a cautious approach to Russia, citizens say it is not doing enough to stand with Ukrainians.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has sparked political turmoil many miles away in Georgia, with citizens seemingly at odds with their government’s actions.

On February 24, the day the Russian invasion was announced, thousands of Georgians took to the streets of the capital, Tbilisi, to protest it – with some estimates claiming that up to 30,000 joined the march along the city’s Rustaveli Avenue.
While citizens were vocal, the government took a more cautious approach. When many European countries introduced sanctions against Russia, Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili refused to impose curbs on the country’s northern neighbour, angering the populace.

“I want to state clearly and unambiguously, considering our national interests and interests of the people, Georgia does not plan to participate in the financial and economic sanctions, as this would only damage our country and populace more,” Garibashvili told reporters at a press conference on February 25.
Hours later, thousands again took to the streets of the capital – this time not just in solidarity with Ukraine but in protest at the government’s stance.

“I’m here not only to stand with Ukraine but because of the actions of the Georgian government,” Mindha Gablia, a protester in Tbilisi, told Al Jazeera.

Police lined the streets outside the Government Administration offices as protesters, carrying Ukrainian flags and anti-Putin banners, chanted “Go, go, go!”

A number of banners criticising the Georgian government were on display, some calling for the prime minister to step down and others apologising to the people of Ukraine for the government’s actions.

More than a month into the war in Ukraine, the divide inside Georgia has only grown.

Days after the prime minister’s statement, in a video address from France on February 28, President Salome Zourabichvili expressed Georgian solidarity with Ukraine. During her annual address to parliament on March 14, she criticised both the government and the opposition over their responses to the war in Ukraine and said the government had restricted her international working trips amid the invasion.

The following day, the ruling Georgian Dream party announced its intention to sue the president in the Constitutional Court for allegedly violating the Georgian constitution by travelling to Paris and Brussels to discuss the crisis in Ukraine without first informing the government.

In a statement rebuking the president, Georgian Dream said the government is responsible for the country’s security and foreign policies and stated that the president should only undertake such activities with the government’s consent.
Inside the country, the government is being heavily criticised for its response to the war, with many saying it is not doing enough to stand in solidarity with Ukrainians – and that the consequences of that could, one day soon, be felt in Georgia.


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