Russian-Georgian Business Council: A Platform for Political Destabilization in Georgia

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 20 Issue: 106

The Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) hosted a meeting of the Russian-Georgian Business Council (RGBC) in Moscow on June 19 (Source: Tabula).

On June 19, a meeting of the Russian-Georgian Business Council (RGBC) was held in Moscow by the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI). As reported by the CCI, the meeting was devoted to discussing issues of logistics, investments and the transit of goods between Russia and Georgia (, June 20). Opening the session, CCI Vice President Vladimir Padalko announced the opening of the repaired and improved Upper Lars border crossing, which, according to him, will facilitate transit between Georgia and Russia. “Non-standard solutions were required to organize this movement,” noted Padalko (, June 21).

The issue of admitting trucks and drivers from Georgia to transport cargo to Russia was also discussed. And the meeting’s participants made proposals on improving investment cooperation between the two sides in the fields of logistics and infrastructure, including the possibility of opening new transport corridors (Accent News, June 20). In this regard, earlier, in May 2023, CCI President Sergey Katyrin announced the need to initiate rail transit through the territory of the self-proclaimed Republic of Abkhazia (, May 12)

The RGBC was established in February 2023. Yuri Balashov, head of the board of directors of IK Rumb and vice president of the National Fund for the Preservation of Cultural and Historical Heritage, was elected its leader. In March, he visited Georgia, held consultations with various business representatives and visited wineries in the Kakheti region (, June 20).

While a key development in bilateral relations between Moscow and Tbilisi, the official information on the RGBC meeting does little to answer several significant questions on the nature of this cooperation:  What is the Georgian government’s role with the CCI? Who empowered it to speak on the behalf of Georgian businesses or the Georgian state on such crucial issues? And what is to become of the proposed restoration of railway traffic through occupied Abkhazia in the direction of Iran and the construction of new highways from Russia to Georgia?

In a June 25 interview with this author, Davit Avalishvili from news agency claimed that “new highways” from Russia means constructing “very dangerous roads through ‘mini-dictator’ Ramzan Kadyrov’s Chechnya to eastern Georgia,” which will “give rise to many security issues for Georgia.” Avalishvili concluded, “The Russian-Georgian Business Council is a mysterious organization, as, from one side, the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is a very significant official organization in Moscow, but we know nothing about the Georgian role in the RGBC” (Author’s interview, June 25).

In truth, despite the fact that all Georgian officials refute any connections with the RGBC and that, according to the Georgian Public Registry, this entity is merely a traditional non-governmental organization (NGO), it is impossible to ignore a strange coincidence: The RGBC intensified its work around the same time that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his decision to resume direct flights with Georgia and cancel the visa regime for Georgian citizens (, May 5; see EDM, May 10).

Paata Sheshelidze, president of the New School of Economics in Georgia, is sure that the RGBC, CCI and other Russian institutions have far-reaching plans regarding the Georgian economy. Sheshelidze recalled that one of the main lobbyists for the restoration of direct flights and the abolition of visas was the founder of the “Neutral Georgia” party, Valeri Kvaratskhelia (Author’s interview, June 25).

However, Kvaratskhelia himself, in a June 25 interview with this author, rejected any connections with the RGBC and emphasized that the work on restoring direct flights and abolishing visas was carried out in the Russian State Duma with the participation of the NGO, Solidarity for Peace.

Furthermore, the announcement of the opening “of the repaired and improved Upper Lars border crossing” came at a time when officials in the United States and European Union have been increasingly expressing their concerns regarding Georgia’s non-compliance with Western sanctions against Russia. On June 8, James O’Brien, head of the Office of Sanctions Coordination at the US State Department, while speaking about the sanctions regime against Russia, declared that Georgia had been identified among five countries that are key to helping Moscow circumvent restrictions—namely, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Georgia, the United Arab Emirates and Armenia (, June 8). But the Georgian Ministry of Finance rejected these allegations, calling them “media interpretations” (, June 9).

According to Alexander Tvalchrelidze, vice president of the Georgian Academy of Natural Sciences, all statements of the RGBC are purely provocations to cause political destabilization in Georgia. “Russia already grabbed all valuable sectors of the Georgian economy, including the energy sector, mining industry, gold mining industry and so on. All these industries in Georgia are now in Russian hands,” Tvalchrelidze contends (Author’s interview, June 25).

On June 6, the influential Georgian NGO Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) held a presentation on the study, “Russian Capital and Russian Connections in Georgian Business,” during a conference organized by the Information Integrity Coalition. The IDFI study found that Russian influence in major areas of Georgian business—including the energy, oil, gas, engineering, mining, tourism and banking/investment sectors—is rather noticeable. These connections and influences often cross the boundaries of business and extend into media, politics, civil society and related fields. That is why the study asserted that, for the democratic development of Georgia, it is critical to reduce economic dependence on the Russian Federation, diversify markets and attract more Western investments (, June 7).

IDFI Executive Director Giorgi Kldiashvili further argued that “disinformation and anti-Western propaganda significantly harm the national interests of Georgia and its Euro-Atlantic aspirations, increase the polarization of citizens and try to hinder the country’s democratic development by having a harmful influence on public processes. … The harmful consequences of misinformation are especially severe when its target is elections, public health or other political processes taking place within the country” (, June 7).

Indeed, Putin’s policies for over 20 years confirm that the Russian autocrat uses the economy, energy and investments to instrumentalize them for the implementation of imperial plans—including in Georgia, which occupies a key geographical position at the crossroads of Asia and Europe.