Speaking at a lengthy press conference on December 26, PM Irakli Garibashvili strongly distanced government from former Georgian army officers fighting on the Ukrainian side in east of the country and stressed for multiple times that Georgia has only rendered humanitarian aid to Ukraine; he dismissed a question whether Russia’s President Putin is a common enemy of Georgia and Ukraine as “provocative.”
Asked if fighting on the Ukrainian side in east of the country also serves Georgia’s interests and if it is a “Georgian deed”, the PM responded: “Georgian deed is the one that is ours. Georgians fighting in Ukraine – I will tell you that we completely distance ourselves from that; we said it from the very beginning that we would have rendered only humanitarian aid to Ukraine and we’ve done so.”
“You know that we have sent medicines, and other things and it was only a humanitarian aid,” he said.
“Of course, we express solidarity towards the Ukrainian people. It is very hard for us to see what is happening in Ukraine. We have stated it for multiple times. But our solidarity and assistance is expressed only in a form of humanitarian aid,” Garibashvili said.
In a follow up question on his remarks that Georgia is “absolutely distanced” from military hostilities in eastern Ukraine, he was asked if “Putin is a common enemy of Georgia and Ukraine”, Garibashvili responded: “Of course we are distanced and our assistance is limited by humanitarian aid and there is no military assistance whatsoever and this two are separated.”
He then continued by saying that a question if Russia’s President Putin is a common enemy for Georgia and Ukraine is “provocative”.
“That’s not your question,” he told a journalist from Tbilisi-based Tabula TV, who asked the question. “This is a question prepared by the [United] National Movement.”
“The fact that former president Saakashvili, who is charged with multiple crimes, and his team were calling on Georgian soldiers – and they were negotiating it in their private conversations – to give up their Georgian citizenship, to quit Georgian armed forces and go to Ukraine, because of high payment there – it is a direct treason and calls for betrayal, I am saying it with full responsibility,” Garibashvili said.
He then recalled a highly controversial statement by the Ministry of Defense in which it said that “representatives of former authorities” of Georgia are to be blamed for the death of Alexandre Grigolashvili, who fought on the Ukrainian side and was killed in combat in east of the country, because they are encouraging Georgians to fight in Ukraine. After widespread condemnation of the statement, MoD had to retract it. PM Garibashvili said that he disapproved the statement because it was made by MoD, otherwise, he suggested, there was nothing surprising in that statement.
“I said that the Ministry itself should not have made such statement, but if the minister or a politician had made such a statement, there was nothing unusual written in that statement,” Garibashvili said.
“What the former president is doing is a direct provocation,” he said. “It is a betrayal to call on a soldier of your country to quit the armed forces and to serve and fight elsewhere in exchange of payment. This is a betrayal.”
“We openly declare in which operations we are taking part – these are ISAF mission in Afghanistan and in the Central African Republic… We are proud of our soldiers and not only we – the entire international community is amazed by braveness and courage of our soldiers. The former commander-in-chief [referring to Saakashvili] should not treat our soldiers so humiliatingly – this is a betrayal, this is enmity against our people and our country,” the PM said.
Asked again if Putin is enemy of Georgia and Ukraine, the PM responded: “I told you that the enemy is…”
“Saakashvili,” journalists intervened as the PM made a pause at that point.
“Yes, Saakashvili is the enemy of our country and the enemy of our people,” PM Garibashvili continued. “What the former commander-in-chief is doing is a shame and betrayal of our country and our people.”
“He [journalist] is asking me a provocative question whether the Russian President is an enemy or not,” Garibashvili returned back on the topic a bit later during the press conference. “Those statements, which are made by Saakashvili, are absolutely reckless. And your questions, as well as the actions of your team, the [United] National Movement, are also absolutely reckless and provocative.”
“We are the responsible government. We are responsible before our people and we do not and will not act irresponsibly before our people and our country. 20 percent of our territory is occupied; Russian troops are deployed on our territory [in Abkhazia and South Ossetia]. There is extremely difficult situation in the region. Ukraine is in flames. Your favorite Saakashvili has only one thing on his mind – to cause conflict and unrests in Georgia and to lead Georgia into armed confrontation with Russia. This is the enmity against our country and our people and we will not allow it happen; we are the responsible government,” Garibashvili said.
The point is “not in saying boldly who is enemy and who is not or in swearing” at someone, PM Garibashvili continued, “the point is to be responsible for each and every statement we make.”
“I am the head of government and I should make a statement that will bring welfare to our country and our people instead of making a statement that may damage our country. Or am I supposed to make a statement just to please you and [United] National Movement’s 20-member sect? I will not let it happen. I have a responsibility before my country and people,” Garibashvili said.
“I assure you with 101% that Georgia would be in war now and in a worse situation than Ukraine is, if Saakashvili and his sect – [UNM] has turned into sect, because only those are left there who are tied to each other with ideology… – were still in power,” the PM said.
Asked to specify what he means by saying that Georgia is “distanced” from developments in Ukraine, PM said: “Like Europe and like the entire world is distanced from the military operations, Georgia too is not taking part in military operations in Ukraine. Our solidarity and involvement is expressed through supporting [Ukraine] with humanitarian aid.”
Asked if he’s going to meet those former Georgian officials, who took government posts in Ukraine, in case of his visit to Kiev, Garibashvili responded: “Not only in Ukraine, but I had no desire to see and meet them in Georgia either.”
“Of course, I do not plan to meet them and I do not want even to see them. I do not need it at all,” the PM said. “As far as my possible visit is concerned, we are working on it. I do not know when it will be held.”