The introduction of direct bilateral restrictions against Moscow by Tbilisi would harm Georgia itself, Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia party, said on the IMEDI TV channel.

"The Georgian side does not impose sanctions against Russia, we have already explained our position, why we do not do this. The reason is simple. It is that by imposing sanctions against Russia, we will actually impose sanctions against our own country and people, which, of course, we will not do. We calculated how the imposition of sanctions against Russia would affect the Georgian economy. If last year we had economic growth of more than 10%, then there would be at least a 10% decline in the economy, from 10 to 18%," TASS quoted him as saying.

Members of the ruling party have repeatedly stated that Georgia does not intend to impose restrictions against the Russian Federation, based on national interests. So, the other day, the speaker of the local parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, noted that Tbilisi would not take such a step in order to avoid an escalation in relations with Moscow.

In an interview with IMEDI, Kobakhidze also accused the opposition of trying to stir up xenophobic sentiments against Russian citizens coming to the country. According to him, in 2022, the republic tried several times to create panic in society about the fact that there could allegedly be more Russians in Georgia than the indigenous population, "which was pure speculation and an ordinary xenophobic campaign."

  • Irakli Kobakhidze
  • RIA Novosti
  • © Alexander Imedashvili

The politician assured that the authorities will not allow manifestations of ethnic intolerance in the country.

"The tourist season is approaching, and they (the opposition. - RT) will again try to sow panic in society, that many ethnic Russians are coming, this could cause the fall of the country ... We will not allow xenophobic campaigns to be fomented in our country. There is no place for xenophobia in Georgia. Georgia is proud of many things, including our tolerance and tolerance, and there is no place for ethnic intolerance and rejection of tolerance in Georgia, no matter how hard the followers of liberal fascism try to achieve this," Kobakhidze stressed.

Contrary to the West and the opposition

Recall that at the end of 2022, Georgia refused Ukraine's request to supply weapons to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. And Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said earlier that Tbilisi does not intend to open a "second front" against the Russian Federation, no matter how much third forces want it.

This policy of the Georgian authorities, according to a survey conducted in November last year, is supported by the overwhelming majority of citizens. Thus, 81% of respondents are impressed by the decision of the Georgian Dream party not to interfere in the conflict in Ukraine.

However, according to analysts, Tbilisi's pragmatic policy towards Moscow causes discontent both in the West and among the Georgian opposition.

Another wave of criticism arose after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on May 10 abolishing visas for Georgian citizens who enter the country for up to 15 days from May 90. Moscow also lifted the ban on flights of Russian airlines and the sale of tours to Georgia, which had been in effect since 2019. In addition, the Russian Foreign Ministry canceled the recommendation for Russians to refrain from traveling to the republic.

Georgian Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili welcomed the facilitation of the visa regime. According to him, this will simplify the lives of more than a million Georgian citizens who live in the Russian Federation.

However, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, known for her pro-Western stance, called Moscow's decision a provocation. She also called on the authorities to convene the Security Council to discuss the possible introduction of a three-month visa regime for Russians.

  • Salome Zurabishvili
  • AFP

The opposition, in turn, staged a protest outside the building of the Georgian Foreign Ministry. The participants spoke out against steps aimed at rapprochement between Georgia and the Russian Federation, and criticized the authorities who supported the abolition of Russia's visa regime.

Against this background, Brussels called on Georgia, which claims to join the EU, to adhere to sanctions against the Russian Federation in the field of aviation and not to let Russian aircraft into its territory, following the example of the European Union. This was stated by the representative of the EU foreign policy service Peter Stano.

The Georgian authorities also warned the US State Department about the possible consequences in the event of the resumption of direct flights with Russia.

"The political class is divided"

According to analysts, Tbilisi, refusing to escalate relations with the Russian Federation, is guided by its own economic interests, since anti-Russian sanctions would hit primarily Georgia itself.

"The Georgian economy is not distinguished by the scale and great differentiation of incomes. It is worth recalling that for the Baltic countries, for example, following anti-Russian sanctions resulted in an increase in the cost of living, they became Europe's leaders in inflation. Georgia would have come to the same results. As a result, the Baltic states are now running everywhere with an outstretched hand, and Georgia, with all the difficulties, maintains some kind of balance, "said Vladimir Olenchenko, a senior researcher at the Center for European Studies of the IMEMO RAS, in a conversation with RT.

  • Tbilisi
  • © Kaveh Kazemi

From his point of view, Georgia is now trying to "take advantage of territorial proximity with Russia," which benefits both sides.

At the same time, political analysts remind that the Georgian authorities as a whole continue to adhere to a pro-Western course.

"The Georgian political class is pro-Western. However, the ruling coalition "Georgian Dream" pursues a more balanced and pragmatic foreign policy, taking into account both the geographical location of the country and the presence of trade and economic relations with Russia, "said Andrei Areshev, an expert at the Strategic Culture Foundation, in an interview with RT.

Political analysts also draw attention to the fact that on the issue of relations with the Russian Federation, the ruling Georgian Dream party and the country's President Salome Zurabishvili take different positions.

"The Georgian government demonstrates sanity and is looking for ways to develop the economy normally and improve the lives of the population. And Zurabishvili considers himself a supporter of Western values. It is noteworthy that she called the creation of conditions for a normal exchange between the two countries a provocation. Such statements indicate that it is very far from real life," said Vladimir Olenchenko.

A similar point of view is shared by Andrey Areshev.

"Georgia's political class has been divided for a long time. The course of the ruling parliamentary majority is sharply criticized by the opposition, which demands Tbilisi's immediate entry into a pro-Ukrainian alliance led by the collective West. To change the position of the Georgian authorities, a variety of ways and means of influence are used, up to mass protests and attempts at armed provocations against law enforcement agencies. We have already seen this during the riots in Georgia in March of this year," the analyst says.

Experts believe that Georgia's preservation of its current foreign policy in the face of internal and external pressure will largely depend on its leadership.

"This is a matter of political will. An example of this is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The current government of Georgia is also now demonstrating sufficient adherence to principles. So it all depends on how consistent the Georgian leadership and the forces behind it will be in their policy in relations with Russia," Olenchenko concluded.