What Georgia’s protests mean for Ukraine

Ukraine in Focus

By Svitlana Morenets

Mar 10

Portrait of the week in Ukraine

Protests that broke out in Tbilisi against adopting a controversial Russian-style law – which could have seen media and non-government groups which take funding from abroad classed as ‘foreign agents’ – have turned into a pro-European movement with political demands. Although the Georgian government has released all arrested protesters and dropped the proposed law, which copied repressive Russian legislation and threatened to ban NGOs and independent media from operating in the country, the opposition is now demanding the resignation of the current Georgian government – along with early elections.

Looking at the EU flags raised by upset Georgians, Ukrainians are comparing the rallies in Tbilisi with the 2014 Maidan revolution in Kyiv. Back then, former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign a political association and trade agreement with the EU, instead choosing closer ties with Russia. Georgians have taken to the streets for similar reasons, fearing that adopting the law on ‘foreign agents’ would mean the end of the country’s long-standing aspirations to join the EU and would shift the country towards authoritarianism. Russia’s ministry of foreign affairs in Crimea has already warned the Georgian demonstrators to ‘recall a similar situation in Ukraine in 2014 and what it finally led to’. (Russia invaded Crimea and Donbas after the Maidan revolution succeeded.)

Although the Russian law on ‘foreign agents’ was repelled, activists in Tbilisi say the battle is far from over. ‘We are willing to defend our democracy, freedom, and European future from Russia or the Russian-backed Georgian government,’ wrote Nodar Rukhadze, a Georgian activist and journalist. Georgia and Moldova applied for EU membership immediately after Ukraine in March last year. Georgia was not granted candidate status because its democracy didn’t meet the criteria. It was given a set of reforms by the European Commission which should be implemented before it can be considered as a candidate for membership.

Ukrainians draw historical parallels between themselves and Georgia. The Kremlin unleashed a war against Georgia in 2008, which lost the country of 20 per cent of its territory. Today Moscow keeps a political and military presence in the occupied territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Both have become large military bases that Russia uses to project power across the region, although some troops were deployed to fight the war against Ukraine.

Ukrainian and Georgian people have always had close relationships: Ukraine was the first country who aided Tbilisi when Russia invaded. For this reason, in February last year, Kyiv counted on Georgia to step up for Ukraine. Ordinary people did by attending thousands of rallies in support of Ukraine, and about 1,500 Georgians volunteered in Ukraine’s army. But officials in Tbilisi refused to impose sanctions against Russia or to provide military aid to Ukraine. Georgia also refused to return the Buk air defence systems it received from Kyiv in 2008 to defend the sky from Russian missiles.

While having a close relationship with Moscow, Tbilisi fears the Kremlin could decide to invade Georgia if it sides with Ukraine. But there are other factors. Georgia’s decision to withhold aid is not only driven by a desire to avoid another invasion, but is also a demonstration of loyalty to the Kremlin. Russia is an important trade partner for Georgia, which the current government doesn’t want to sacrifice; the Georgian economy has grown over the past two years. Last year, according to the National Bank of Georgia, Russians transferred about 2 billion dollars to the country – ten times more than in 2021. Some 112,000 Russians fled from mobilisation to Georgia, giving an unexpected boost to its economy.

For the past few days, demonstrators who gathered near the Georgian parliament held the flags of the EU, Georgia and Ukraine and played the national anthems of both countries, once again demonstrating that Ukrainians and Georgians have a common enemy: Russia. But the Georgian authorities don’t agree with the country’s citizens. Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the Georgian people for supporting Ukraine, saying that all free nations of Europe deserve to be in the EU, and that ‘there is no Ukrainian who would not wish success to our friendly Georgia’. Ukrainians believe if pro-EU movements succeed in Georgia and Moldova, Russia will begin to lose supporters in other post-Soviet countries which are still afraid to rise up against the Kremlin.


In pictures

Kyiv, Ukraine: Ukraine’s top military leaders joined hundreds of others at Independence Square to commemorate Dmytro Kotsyubail (known as ‘Da Vinci’), a Hero of Ukraine, who died during a combat mission near Bakhmut. (Сredit: Syspine)


Quote of the week:

‘This is tactical for us… after Bakhmut, they [Russian forces] could go further. They could go to Kramatorsk, they could go to Sloviansk. That’s why our guys are standing there.’

– Volodymyr Zelensky during an interview with CNN, in which he reiterated his bid to continue defending the city.


Wider reading on the war

Ukraine is building up its forces for an offensive –(The Economist)

Ending our ‘dither-and-deliver’ approach could speed end to Ukraine ware –Daviv A. Super (The Hill)

Meet the architect behind ‘Putin’s palace’ –Paul Wood (The Spectator)

Ukraine needs shells, and arms makers want money –Steven Erlanger (New York Times)

In the race to arm Ukraine, the US faces cracks in its manufacturing might –Missy Ryan (Washington Post)


The war in numbers

Russian billionaire assets frozen by the EU


€3.5bn more than the bloc had managed by last October

Number of artillery shells Ukraine needs:


According to the country’s defence minister. It would cost £3.6bn.

Missile salvo fired at Ukraine on Thursday


The Ukrainian armed forces says that it managed to intercept 34.


Svitlana Morenets was a journalist in Kyiv. She hitchhiked in Crimea to learn more about life under the Russian occupation and wrote a story about her experience in 2019. She is now in London working at The Spectator. If you enjoy the Ukraine in Focus newsletter, please forward it to someone you know: you can sign up here. Svitlana’s writing for The Spectatorcan be found here. This email is a work in progress: all feedback welcome: svitlana@spectator.co.uk


  1. “Russia’s ministry of foreign affairs in Crimea has already warned the Georgian demonstrators to ‘recall a similar situation in Ukraine in 2014 and what it finally led to’.

    That’s a very clear threat from the kremlin murder gang. Fair play to Svitlana for uncovering this. I did not see it anywhere else.
    The question is : what can be done to prevent this?
    And when that question is answered, will anyone do it?
    The thought of Georgians again having again to live under the control of savages is absolutely unbearable.

  2. The Georgian people have finally arisen to oppose the growth of an evil cancer withing their government. Like any real cancer and to assure a better survival rate, it is essential to find it as early as possible and to commence treatment asap. Now is the time to do so. Let us hope that the Georgian people can remove this cancer, now that the source of this disease – mafia land – is too busy with Ukraine.
    It would also be highly welcome now if other oppressed peoples within and in the periphery of mafia land would rise up against their own cancers.

    • The situation in Georgia is complex. Georgians love Ukraine and hate putler as much as Ukrainians do.
      The president of Georgia; Salome Zourabishvili, is pro-Ukraine and pro-Georgia’s Nato-EU trajectory. She was foreign minister under Saakash. Unfortunately, putler’s man; Bidzina Ivanishvili, tinkered with the Georgian system, removed executive powers from the president and put it with the PM instead. The PM; Irakli Garibashvili, is an Ivanishvili puppet. To make things more confusing, the chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party; Irakli Kobakhidze, is also pro-west/anti-putler.

      • If the people are strong enough, they will be the ones to forge the future of Georgia, not any pro-mafia shit nuggets in the government. Let us hope that they have this strength. And, let us hope that mafia land is weakened enough not to interfere or to interfere only weakly.

    • what I do think does make this more complex is that the current Georgian parliament has been elected democratically.

      Yanukovich and for example Saakashvili’s predecessor obviously weren’t.

      I think mostly the young elite opposes the Georgian Dream party as they see through them, but I don’t think this view is necessarily shared by the entire population.

      What makes it hard is that the Georgian Dream party says its pro-European, pro-NATO, supports reforms and “double digit growth”, just as in the Saakashvili era.

      Those that use the internet and are bright easily see that they are doing the exact opposite, but those that read oligarch controlled media will not.

      Bidzina Ivanishvilli is not a fool, unlike Yanukovich or Medvedchuk. He mostly remains behind the scenes and knows exactly what to say.

      I once read his website and he seems like a pro-European enlightened do-good’er, but he basically is a Yanukovich under cover.

      Around 2013 Saakashvili lost his mind and became a paranoid loony and was deeply unpopular. Bidzina and his cronies basically filled the void by saying exactly what he said, but without the authoritarianism, nationalism and witch hunts.

      For example, when I was in Tbilisi I spoke with some students. They said that around the end of his term, he saw Russians everywhere and forcefully cracked down on any dissent, even when it were students protesting about the demolition of a building or things like that.

      But they liked the reforms, so they voted for the Georgian Dream. They didn’t think of them as evil, but just incompetent, but still better than 2013 Saakashvili.

      It was 2018 when I was in Georgia, so they probably think different now, but I do think I understand how Georgian Dream could fill a void and even attract decent people.

      Btw, I considered Saakashvili one of my heroes and the best reformers in human history. I still think he was to some extent, but my travel to Georgia made me think otherwise.

      He started by building hospitals, roads, refitting schools and tackling corruption, which everyone liked, but later went on doing things no Georgian ever asked for, such as the MIT faculty’s with a golden ferris wheel on top in Batumi.

      He ordered to demolish Soviet era blocks and replaced them with probably the most beautifully ornamented buildings I have ever seen. Just one problem: they remain empty till date as no one could afford them, only increasing demand for the remaining commie blocks instead of taking people out.

      I love Batumi with its fountains, the cool art such as the two lovers and the beach and I really want to go again.

      But it did give me some Potemkin village vibes, as a lot of the newer buildings were empty. They went from commie blocks to 5 star resorts, with nothing in between for the ordinary Georgian to live and improve his life.

      • Thanks for the elaborate explanation about the sociopolitical situation in Georgia. You, along with Scradge, seem to be our Georgia experts on here. I admit that my expertise about this country is quite limited.
        Whatever happens in Georgia, I hope that the people are the ones to form the future of the country and not some external force, especially from mafia land.

        • Thanks!
          Maybe an interesting thing: I more or less by accident met the Georgian ambassador and his wife some weeks ago at an event.

          They were very friendly and invited me to drink Georgian wine at the embassy.

          If you won’t hear from me in a while, you can safely assume I am poisoned.

          I think they were quite happy about me changing subject from politics to wine. I could have asked about Saakashvili’s imprisonment or the Georgian Dream party, but I didn’t want to give them a bad time as I think they were too nice.

              • Then, maybe asking them about Saakashvili’s imprisonment or the Georgian Dream party would not be such a bad idea. Maybe you could write a short report about it for us. I’m sure this would be of great interest to all.

  3. Time to kick Bidzina’s butt.
    Every Georgian knows where he lives (on the hill near the radio tower in Tbilisi)

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