Despite Dairy-Gate, Georgians Stand Strong In Their Support For Ukraine In Tbilisi
In a country all too familiar with Russia’s “special military operations,” Georgians have taken to the streets – and the internet – to show their support and solidarity with the people of Ukraine, despite the actions of their government.
Over this past weekend, it was announced that Russia’s Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision agency Rosselkhoznadzor would lift sanctions from 15 Georgian milk and dairy suppliers, allowing them to supply and import their products into Russia. A blow Georgian citizens have taken personally, marking a turning point in the demonstrations taking place daily in front of the capital city’s Parliament building. Last night, several Georgian citizens were arrested for throwing toilet paper and flouring the police, with the police stating a disturbance of public order.
This follows statements from Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, who has made it clear Georgia would not be joining western sanctions placed against Russia, claiming national interests and potential damage to Georgian producers.
With this, Georgia has been excluded from Russia’s list of “unfriendly countries,” which includes the United States and Ukraine, among others.
It isn’t just the Georgian people who have noted these actions. Hacker group Anonymous has announced the Georgian government would be the latest target of their cyber-attacks and Ruslan Stefanchuk, chair of the Ukrainian Parliament, made a public statement following the lifting of sanctions of milk and dairy suppliers. Saying, “don’t you see the people of Georgia that go to the squares of their cities and towns support Ukraine and not your muddy deals?” Closing with, “But we know for sure that Georgia is not just its government. First of all, Georgia is its proud, fearless, and freedom-loving people. People that will never keep silent when their brothers are in danger.”
Despite the actions, or lack thereof, of the government, Georgians, and the people who call the country home, continue to step up and stand strong in their support for Ukraine.
Stamba Hotel, a hotel with a history of its own as a former Soviet-era publishing house, raised a sign above their front door earlier this week that said, “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.” The sign comes as a nod to the Ukrainian border guards who attempted to defend Snake Island against a Russian warship. Days later, the sign has changed to “Слава Україні!,” translating to Glory to Ukraine. More messages will come this week.
Additionally, Holiday Inn Tbilisi and many other hotels in the country announced they would host any Ukrainian tourists unable to leave Georgia in cooperation with the Embassy of Ukraine and Georgian National Tourism Association. The Georgian National Tourism Administration, a government organization, has provided approximately 230 rooms to Ukrainian tourists. Tourists are being hosted at Iveria Inn, Ibis Tbilisi Stadium Hotel, and the Holiday Inn Tbilisi.
41 Gradus, a popular cocktail bar in the city’s Sololaki neighborhood, announced they would be donating revenue from nightly sales to a local Ukrainian humanitarian group that would be delivering aid directly. While owner Roman Milostivy is a Russian citizen, he has a close connection to Ukraine – his grandfather and wife are both Ukrainian, and his daughter holds Ukrainian citizenship.
Natural winemaker and restauranteur John Wurdeman, known around the world for his Pheasant’s Tears Winery natural wine and a driving force behind the country’s natural wine movement, has promised a container of wine to Wine Bureau Kyiv, his Ukrainian distributor whose warehouse was bombed during the invasion. He’s asked other winemakers to join in the donation, with Ori Marani, Baia’s Wine, Oda Family Marani, Kortavebis Marani, Akhmeta Wine House, Begaso Family Winery, Malati Winery, and many others joining him.
Spend 4 Seasons in Georgia, the Facebook group that gained tremendous popularity after Russia banned flights to Georgia in 2019 after protesters tried to storm the Georgian parliament on June 20 when a Russian MP took a speaker’s chair joined in the stand for Ukraine. The page has become a dedicated place for Georgian locals to offer apartments, meals, and other aid to Ukrainian tourists stranded in Georgia and beyond.
It’s not just businesses that are doing good. The Georgian people refuse to sit back and watch, not allowing their government to define them. Nightly protests in front of the Parliament building in Tbilisi have seen as many as 30,000 attendees hoping to have their voices heard. The Parliament build has also become a donation drop-off for anyone interested in donating goods and clothing to Ukraine.
Last Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the crowd during a live broadcast to thank Georgians for their continued support. Support that has no sign of stopping anytime soon.