Ukrainian-Georgian Relations Reach New Low

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 50

(Source: Ukrainian Prism)

Executive Summary:

  • Relations between Tbilisi and Kyiv have reached an all-time low as the two governments remain at odds over Russia’s war against Ukraine and the release of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a Ukrainian citizen, from prison.
  • Georgia’s ruling party has claimed that the inclusion of former Georgian officials who have been sentenced to prison in Ukrainian delegations to Europe undermines the rule of law, though many of these sentences were politically motivated.
  • Moscow is actively taking advantage of the disagreements between Georgia and Ukraine through increased cooperation with the Georgian Dream government to weaken regional solidarity in supporting Ukraine.

On March 20, Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of the Georgian Dream’s parliamentary majority, claimed that the Ukrainian delegation did not support Tbilisi’s emergency resolution for the accession of Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine to the European Union (Interpressnews, March 20). Maka Bochorishvili, head of the Georgian delegation in the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, championed the initiative, but the Ukrainian representatives reportedly did not vote for the draft resolution (Interpressnews, March 20). Later, members of the Ukrainian delegation confirmed that they did not support the Georgian initiative, saying their refusal was based on Tbilisi’s ambiguous policy on Russia’s war against Ukraine war and its actions in helping Moscow avoid Western sanctions. This incident is the latest political spat between Tbilisi and Kyiv, as bilateral relations have hit a new low. Although both countries strive to become members of the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Georgian Dream’s differing position on Russia and its role in the post-Soviet space looks to exacerbate relations with Kyiv further.

The ruling party has taken exception with EU bodies agreeing to meet with former government officials sentenced to prison. For example, on March 11, Irakli Kobakhidze, the new head of the Georgian government, stated that the European visits of Zurab Adeishvili, former Georgian minister of justice and former general prosecutor, represented an attack on European values, including the rule of law. Kobakhidze was referring to Adeishvili’s recent trip to the European Union and Germany as part of a Ukrainian delegation (, March 11). The Georgian premier contended, “Of course, it is unacceptable for us that criminals enjoy free movement across Europe and that criminals, people exposed to the most serious crimes, can be seen in Brussels and Berlin” (, March 11). In January 2021, a Tbilisi court sentenced Adeishvili in absentia to prison on charges of malfeasance during his time in public office when he held high-level positions in former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s administration from 2004 to 2012.

Adeishvili’s presence at these meetings reflected his current standing within the Ukrainian government. The former Georgian official became an influential figure in Ukrainian politics after his role in the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes in Ukraine and the forcible abduction and re-education of Ukrainian children (see EDM, April 19, 2023, March 7). Petre Tsiskarishvili, secretary general of the United National Movement (UNM; main opposition party in Georgia), said in a March 19 interview with this author that Adeishvili was attending a hearing at the Bundestag (German Parliament) as he holds a high-ranking position in Ukraine’s Office of Prosecutor General. “The Georgian government tried to pressure and shame the European Union since Adeishvili is on its wanted list—albeit for politically motivated charges,” Tsiskarishvili claimed. “Since no Western institution takes the allegations or the rulings of Georgia’s judicial system seriously there are no objections to such engagements.” The UNM leader also underlined that Ukraine “does not intend to cooperate with Georgia’s ruling class for … its friendly relations with the Kremlin” (Author’s interview, March 19).

The German Embassy in Tbilisi and the EU Delegation to Georgia characterized Kobakhidze’s interpretation of Adeishvili’s visits as “disinformation” (, March 20). On March 11, the Georgian Dream government stated its opposition to Adeishvili’s inclusion in the Ukrainian delegation: “We wish to express deep concern regarding the attitude demonstrated by the Ukrainian authorities toward the friendly country of Georgia and its people.” The statement stipulated that “for a considerable time,” Tbilisi would refrain from “taking a stance on the ongoing war” (Interpressnews, March 11).

The Georgian government also called attention to the country’s “consistent” solidarity with Ukraine and noted that, against this background, several of Kyiv’s recent decisions are “regrettable and deeply troubling.” The official statement placed particular emphasis on Ukraine recalling its ambassador to Georgia in 2022, Kyiv “forcing” the Georgian ambassador to leave the country in 2023, Ukraine’s statements regarding the imprisoned Saakashvili, and the appointment of individuals wanted by Tbilisi to high-level positions in Ukraine, Adeishvili among them (, March 1, 2022; July 4, 2023). The Georgian government concluded that it was “perplexed” by these decisions, “which appear to artificially drive a wedge between two historically friendly nations and peoples. Nevertheless, we hold a deep conviction that regardless of the decisions made by politicians, nothing can undermine the profound historical friendship between our countries and peoples” (Radiotavisupleba, March 11).

The Ukrainian reaction to the March 11 statement was rather predictable. David Arakhamia, leader of the Servant of the People faction in the Ukrainian Rada (Parliament), asserted that three conditions need to be met for normalization of relations between Kyiv and Tbilisi: (1) Saakashvili should be released and returned to Ukraine, (2) Georgia’s direct flight with Russia should be suspended, and (3) Tbilisi should cease assisting Moscow in circumventing sanctions. Arakhamia argued that “The pro-Russian Georgian government voices demands about the extradition of our citizens for the normalization of Georgian-Ukrainian relations” but does not offer any reciprocation (Radiotavisupleba, March 12).

Many experts in Tbilisi are sure that Saakashvili’s release will remain a key issue for Kyiv, as the former Georgian president is a symbol of the anti-Putin resistance. Tornike Sharashenidze, a professor at the Georgian Institute for Public Affairs, observed, “There is no chance for the normalization of Georgian-Ukrainian relations until Saakashvili is released” (Author’s interview, March 20).

Moscow is closely monitoring the tensions between Georgia and Ukraine, actively trying to deepen these disagreements. Russia is demonstratively increasing the number of flights to Georgia and expanding trade with the Georgian Dream government, thereby exacerbating Kyiv’s dissatisfaction. Meanwhile, the Kremlin is using the puppet regimes of occupied South Ossetia and Abkhazia to stoke tensions along the occupation line, threatening new military actions if Georgia continues to follow a path of integration with the European Union and NATO (see EDM, March 19). The Georgian ruling party’s openness to expanding cooperation with Moscow will likely deepen its falling out with Kyiv.