Strategic Analysis Caucasus Brief

Bi-weekly review (29.01 – 25. 02. 2024)

Tomáš Baranec



Former Mayor Marutyan ousted as member of the Yerevan City Council plans PM bid

On February 7, the Yerevan City Council voted to oust Councillor Hayk Marutyan for “unexcused absences” from the body’s sessions. Marutyan denied the motive of the move initiated by the Civil Contract faction as politically motivated. He said that the majority wanted to oust him and several other councilors because they had demanded the resignation of the current Mayor, Tigran Avinyan.

By law, the City Council has the power to oust a councilor for being absent from more than half of sittings or votes. Marutyan has skipped all of the 42 votes held during the current sitting. The former Yerevan Mayor says he boycotted the sessions as a sign of protest. Marutyan argued that no one has the right to deprive him of his seat, as he’s been elected to office for a 5-year term. He said he’s been performing his duties outside of the sessions. “This is an attempt to deprive the opposition of a fighting platform. Do you think you’re my employer? My employer are my voters,” Marutyan said after the 65-member council expelled him in a 34-0 vote.

Hayk Marutyan said on the same day that he plans to contest Armenia’s next parliamentary elections after being ousted. Councillor Narine Hayrapetyan was also ousted during the session. Besides Marutyan and Hayrapetyan, the Civil Contract faction seeks the ousting of Mother Armenia faction councillors Sona Aghekyan, Gevorg Stepanyan and Zaruhi Postanjyan.

As reminds, Marutyan led Yerevan from 2018 to 2021, when he was similarly ousted from his post in a no-confidence vote put forward by the Civil Contract that was widely seen as politically motivated. It marked a stunning turn of events for Marutyan, who was once viewed as one of Nikol Pashinyan’s closest political allies but broke with the Prime Minister after Armenia’s disastrous defeat to Azerbaijan in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. Marutyan was a regular fixture at the 2018 rallies that rocked Armenia, and his landslide victory later that year in Yerevan’s city council elections presaged Pashinyan’s sweep of Parliament fewer than three months later.

Before entering politics, Marutyan enjoyed a successful and profitable career in entertainment as one of Armenia’s leading comedic actors, becoming a household name in the country.

  •, “Yerevan ex-mayor Hayk Marutyan loses City Council seat”,

  •, “Marutyan plans prime minister bid after city council ouster”,

Four Armenian soldiers killed in Azerbaijani attack

On the morning of February 13, four Armenian soldiers were killed, and one was wounded by Azerbaijani gunfire in the southern Syunik Province, Armenia’s defense ministry reported. The news came a day after Azerbaijan claimed one of its soldiers was wounded by Armenian fire, informed

On February 12, the Azerbaijani foreign ministry released a statement saying that a serviceman of the country’s State Border Service was wounded “as a result of another military provocation” by Armenia. According to local media, soldier Khalilzade Parviz Aghakishi Oglu, a serviceman of the State Border Service, was injured and evacuated to a specialised medical facility via helicopter. Government-linked news agency released footage of the attack.

In response, the Armenian defence ministry stated that the matter was “under investigation.” “Preliminary findings indicate that no such situation occurred in this area on February 12,” it said. “If this is confirmed, those responsible for violating the orders will be held accountable.”

The next day, Azerbaijani forces fired on the Armenian army post near the border village of Nerkin Hand in Syunik Province. Four Armenian servicemen were killed, and one was wounded. He is reported to be in stable condition.

Azerbaijan’s State Border Service said it had fired on an Armenian post in retaliation for Armenian shelling of Azerbaijani positions that wounded one Azerbaijani service member the previous day. “Any provocations by the Armenian side aimed at escalating tensions along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border will now be met with even more serious and decisive measures,” the State Border Service said in a statement. “The military-political leadership of Armenia bears full responsibility for these developments.” Azerbaijan’s State Border Service named the attack “Operation Revenge,” a moniker it has used for several past operations.

According to AFP, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has told Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev that he wants Baku to avoid future border flare-ups with Armenia and to pursue a lasting peace. Erdoğan also hoped last week’s flare-up “will not be repeated”. “There is no doubt that the signing of a permanent peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia would be a new source of hope for peace, tranquillity and stability in our region and in the world,” Erdoğan said at a media appearance with Aliyev on February 21.

  •, “Four Armenian soldiers killed in Azerbaijani attack”,

  • VOA, “Armenia and Azerbaijan Trade Accusations Over Border Skirmish That Leaves 4 Soldiers Dead”,

  •, “Erdoğan Urges Aliyev to Avoid Tensions with Armenia”,


Recently resigned Armenian economy minister placed under house arrest

On February 16, the Anti-Corruption Court in Yerevan placed former Armenian Economy Minister Vahan Kerobyan under house arrest for two months. Kerobyan, who resigned from his position the previous week, faced charges of abuse of power after being summoned for questioning by the Investigative Committee of Armenia, reported Caucasus Watch.

Earlier this month, seven Armenian Ministry of Economy employees were arrested on “abuse of power” charges following a probe into a government tender process for services designed for the Public Investment Projects Bank. Kerobyan publicly voiced his criticism over the arrests and denied the corruption charges. Armenia’s Investigative Committee, in a statement, claimed ministry officials disqualified a private entity from the procurement tender to make sure that it was won by another bidder that charged a much higher sum.

“During these three-plus years, I have worked with unwavering devotion, filled with love for every citizen of Armenia. I worked at least six days a week, from 8 am to 9 pm on average, with a total of 15-16 vacation days used over three years. I lived every day of my work with the dominant desire to have a strong Armenia as soon as possible. I was determined, honest and devoted to the motherland,” Kerobyan said in a Facebook post after being dismissed by the decree of Armenia’s President Vahagn Khachaturyan.

During his court appearance, Kerobyan stated that he did not perceive the criminal case against him as politically motivated. He emphasised that Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had no involvement in the trial, and he personally did not detect any political undertones in the case. However, Kerobyan revealed that Araik Harutyunyan, the head of the government staff, suggested that he submit a resignation letter.

Pashinyan warns Azerbaijan seeks “full-scale war”

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has warned Azerbaijan could be stalling peace talks in order to launch a “full-scale war”, a claim Azerbaijan has dismissed as “unfounded”, reported OC Media. While opening a government session on Thursday, Pashinyan referred to the escalation along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border earlier this week, labelling it “another manifestation of Azerbaijan’s unconstructive policy”.  He said Azerbaijan could be avoiding measures to stabilise the situation on the border to begin military operations “with the prospect of turning the military escalation into a full-scale war against the Republic of Armenia”. “This intention can be noticed in all statements and actions from official Baku,” stressed Pashinyan.

As noted by, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry was quick to respond to Pashinyan’s remark. It reminded Pashinyan of “Armenia’s territorial claims on Azerbaijan.” This was a reference to Armenia’s Constitution, which – through referring to other documents – calls for the unification of the formerly Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh region with Armenia. The process of changing the Armenian constitution has become a heated topic in both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan’s demand that Armenia changes its constitution has complicated the years-long process aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace deal between the archrival neighbouring states. A central issue in those talks is the delimitation and demarcation of the state border, particularly since Azerbaijan’s full seizure of Nagorno-Karabakh last September took the fate of that region’s Armenian population off the table.

Azerbaijan demands the return of enclaves controlled by Armenia since the First Karabakh War in the early 1990s, while Armenia demands the withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from the Armenian territories it occupied between May 2021 and September 2022. Azerbaijan justifies its troops’ presence in the area due to the lack of demarcation and refuses to pull back.

To de-escalate the situation, Armenia proposed withdrawing troops from the border areas and establishing a demilitarised zone while the demarcation takes place. The West, including the European Union and the United States, supported Pashinyan’s proposal to demilitrise the borders.

  • BARSEGYAN Arshaluys, OC Media, „Pashinyan warns Azerbaijan seeks ‘full-scale war’”,

  • AVETISYAN Ani,, Armenian PM says Azerbaijan gearing up for ‘full-scale war‘”,


Armenia halts participation in CSTO, cites unmet security commitments

Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan said that Yerevan has “frozen” its participation in the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The Kremlin has called on Yerevan to explain this decision. In an interview with France 24, Pashinyan said the CSTO had not fulfilled its obligations toward Armenia, a member state. “The CSTO hasn’t fulfilled its security obligations towards Armenia, particularly in 2021 and 2022, and this couldn’t have gone without consequences. And the consequence is that in practice, we have basically frozen our participation in the CSTO,” Pashinyan told France24.

When asked about the Russian military base in Armenia, Pashinyan clarified that the base is located in Armenia, not as part of the CSTO. “That’s an entirely different legal-contractual framework, and we haven’t had to address that framework,” he said, as cited by Asbarez.

Moscow reacted cautiously to Pashinyan’s latest remarks, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that it expects Yerevan to clarify them. Peskov also noted that the Armenian side has not notified the CSTO about suspending its membership in the organisation. Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested in December that Armenia was not planning to leave the CSTO and attributed Yerevan’s boycott of the organisation to internal “processes” taking place in the country. By contrast, the Russian Foreign Ministry earlier accused Pashinyan of systematically “destroying” Russian-Armenian relations.

Pashinyan also claimed that in the wake of Azerbaijan’s recapture of Nagorno-Karabakh last September, “Russia’s most high-ranking representatives” encouraged Armenians to take to the streets and topple him. Moscow did not immediately respond to the claim.

  •, “Armenia Has ‘Frozen’ Participation in CSTO, Angering Moscow”,
  •, “Armenia’s Membership In Russian-Led Defense Bloc ‘Frozen’”,
France reportedly ships more military equipment to Armenia amid high-ranking visit

France’s Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu flew to Yerevan on February 23 as Armenia reportedly received French military hardware acquired by it last October. During a joint press conference with his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu in Yerevan on February 23, Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikyan said that the agenda of military cooperation between Armenia and France covers almost all spheres of life of the armed forces. “During the talks, the French side was familiarised with the process of reforming the Armenian army, which is aimed at forming the armed forces meeting modern standards and capable of confronting modern challenges,” Papikyan said. “Armenia has an indisputable right to form defensive alliances with various states and organisations without having any aggressive intentions towards other countries,” he added.

French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu said that France would supply Armenia with, among other things, short-, medium- and long-range air defence systems if necessary. “If Armenia needs it, we can put short, medium, and long-range air defence systems at its disposal as well. This is what it means to be a reliable and trustworthy partner when it comes to the sovereignty of a country,” Lecornu noted. He informed that France handed night vision devices to Armenia, and a new batch of Bastion armoured vehicles is being prepared.

The French defence group Thales signed a contract with the Armenian Defense Ministry to supply three GM200 radars during Papikian’s visit to Paris last October. Papikian and Lecornu signed a letter of intent on Armenia’s future acquisition of short-range surface-to-air missiles manufactured by another French company at the time.

Neither minister shed light on several documents that they signed after their talks. AFP reported that the Armenian side also signed a supply contract with the French company PGM, maker of sniper rifles. It said no details of the deal were made public.

  • Caucasus Watch, “France Commits Military Aid to Armenia, Offers Advanced Air Defense Systems”,

  •, “French Defense Chief Visits Armenia, Signs Defense Deals Amid Deepening Ties”,

  •, “France Reportedly Ships More Military Equipment To Armenia”,



Azerbaijan: Aliyev elected President. Elections were not free, according to observers

Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev secured a fifth consecutive term in elections on February 7, winning 92% of the vote. According to OSCE observers, Azerbaijan’s presidential election took place in a restrictive environment with no real political competition.

“The Azerbaijani people have elected Ilham Aliyev as the country’s president,” Central Election Commission chief Mazahir Panahov told a press conference. Turnout in the snap election, which was called a year early following Azerbaijan’s recapture of the Nagorno-Karabakh region from Armenian separatists last September, was 67.7%.

Several thousand Aliyev supporters gathered on Wednesday evening in the streets of central Baku to celebrate his re-election, singing patriotic songs and holding signs with messages such as “Karabakh’s liberator” and “We are proud of you!” Nevertheless, the vote was accompanied by widespread reports of electoral fraud, with independent media and activists posting footage online appearing to show ballot box stuffing, carousel voting, and other violations.

The footage emerged despite apparent attempts to block some observers from entering polling stations. Turannews agency claimed journalists not registered on Azerbaijan’s controversial Media Registry were barred from filming inside polling stations. Election specialist Mammad Mammadzade told Meydan TV that observers were pressured during the opening of polling stations and the voting process. “Observers who want to take photos or videos are removed from the [polling] station in some form. They apply pressure, and they call the police. These forms of pressure can be found in almost all polling stations”, Mammadzadeh said.

The election “took place in a restrictive environment and … was marked with the stifling of critical voices,” said Artur Gerasymov, Special Co-Ordinator and leader of the OSCE group of election observers in Azerbaijan.

Aliyev was running against six other candidates, all of whom have consistently supported the ruling party in the past. None of the six won more than 2% in the official results. Azerbaijan’s major opposition parties announced last December that they would boycott the election.

Azerbaijan detains an opposition youth activist, another one could fall into a coma in prison

On February 10, Azerbaijani police detained a youth activist, Ayub Chalabi, associated with the imprisoned opposition figure Gubad Ibadoghlu, reported OC Media. His father, Khayyam Chalabi, stated that the 23-year-old activist had disappeared after going out to buy bread from a store close to their home in Baku. “I learned from the neighbours that three people in civilian clothes stopped my son in the yard of our house and took him away in their car”, said Chalabi’s father, who chairs a local branch of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare party.

His family said they were unable to contact Chalabi and that the police had declined to give details of his whereabouts until the following day when the Interior Ministry confirmed to Meydan TV that he had been detained. The ministry said a court had since sentenced him to 30 days of administrative detention on unnamed charges.

Chalabi’s father said his son suffered from a heart defect and that the Azerbaijani authorities were likely trying to pressure him through the arrest of his son. ”This is a political safari; they detained my son because of me. This is related to my political activity”, he said, as cited by OC Media.

Meanwhile, the party’s chair, Gubad Ibadoghlu, has been in prison since July 2023 on charges of making, acquiring, or selling counterfeit money and disseminating religious extremist material. On February 12, his lawyer, Zibeyda Sadigova, stated that Ibadoghlu was being denied treatment despite suffering from heart palpitations and high blood sugar levels.

She warned that Ibadoghlu could fall into a coma if he did not receive the treatment he needed. “There is a place called the treatment facility — patients are sent there, where they are under the complete supervision of a doctor, and after receiving treatment, they are returned to the isolation ward. But this rule, of course, does not apply to Gubad Ibadoghlu”, she said.

In an interview with Meydan TV, Ibadoghlu’s brother, Galib Bayramov, attributed the opposition figure’s deteriorating health to the poor conditions in which he was being held. He claimed that the prison administration had also not allowed Ibadoghlu to exercise daily. Several members of Ibadoghlu’s party, the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party, have been detained since Ibadgholu’s arrest in July last year.


Photo: Shutterstock. com

Ilham Aliyev outlines policy priorities

At his swearing-in ceremony on February 14, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev reiterated his commitment to the comprehensive development of Azerbaijan and the defence of its territorial integrity, reported Caucasus Watch. Aliyev confirmed the continuation of building a strong army in Azerbaijan. He emphasised the significant allocation of funds for military expenses and the reconstruction efforts in Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur. The head of state emphasised the creation of a robust military and industrial complex, the first stage of which has been accomplished. He noted that the second stage of this endeavour would be even more extensive, underscoring the nation’s commitment to strengthening its defence capabilities and ensuring security in the region.

Speaking on military development, Aliyev stressed the significant role of technological development and superiority in industrial development and the military sphere. The Azerbaijani leader noted that Azerbaijan emerged from the war in former de facto Nagorno Karabakh with minimal losses, attributing this achievement partly to its technological advances.

Regarding relations with Armenia, Aliyev reiterated Azerbaijan’s firm stance on post-war issues and stressed the importance of fulfilling Armenia’s obligations. He expressed disappointment over renewed territorial claims and reluctance to abide by agreements reached after the Second Karabakh War. He stated that Azerbaijan has no territorial ambitions towards Armenia but expects reciprocity in abandoning unfounded claims.

The Azerbaijani head of state also outlined the evolving priorities of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy. He emphasised that the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, which had dominated previous foreign policy goals, was now largely addressed. President Aliyev expressed his intention to explore new directions in foreign policy and highlighted the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) as a key priority.

In addition, Aliyev stressed Azerbaijan’s commitment to leading the global fight against Islamophobia and neo-colonialism.  Turning to economic reforms, he noted the transformation of Azerbaijan’s investment landscape, with significant diversification away from dependence on the oil and gas sector. He highlighted the substantial investments flowing into the non-oil sector and expressed confidence in the positive results expected in the coming years.

Aliyev also highlighted Azerbaijan’s growing export opportunities, particularly to Europe and noted the recent launch of Azerbaijan’s new resource base, citing the first gas production from the Absheron gas condensate field, the country’s second-largest field. He hinted at the imminent start of this field’s second stage of development.

On February 2, Aliyev approved the document: “Azerbaijan 2030: National Priorities for socio-economic development.” The national priorities include five main directions: Ensuring sustainable growth and competitiveness of the economy, Creating a dynamic, inclusive society based on social justice, Competitive human capital and modern innovation, The great return to the liberated territories, a Clean environment and a green growth country. On the same day, the President also gave an order to approve the document “Azerbaijan 2030: National Priorities for Socio-Economic Development”.

Azerbaijan Opens Embassy in Kabul

On February 15, Afghan officials announced that Azerbaijan had opened an embassy in Kabul. Abdul Qahar Balkhis, the representative of the Afghan Foreign Ministry, wrote on the X platform that Ilham Mammadov, the Azerbaijani ambassador in Kabul, met with Amir Khan Muttaqi, the “foreign minister” of the Taliban regime, and presented the official letter on the opening of the embassy in Kabul.

On February 9, Nuruddin Azizi, the head of the Ministry of Trade and Industry of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), received a delegation of Azerbaijani businessmen to explore investment opportunities in Afghanistan. During the meeting, both parties emphasised the importance of strengthening business ties between Afghanistan and Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani businessmen expressed interest in establishing a joint chamber of commerce and investment to facilitate trade between the two nations.

Azizi assured that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan guarantees full security and favourable conditions for investment. He also assured the delegation that his ministry is committed to supporting foreign investment by providing opportunities for both local and international businesspeople.

On January 13, 2021, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev signed the Law on establishing an embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Afghanistan, and in July 2021, Ilham Mammadov was appointed as an Ambassador to Afghanistan. In December 2023, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov noted that Baku plans to open an embassy in Kabul in 2024. The decision to open an embassy of Azerbaijan in Kabul was made 27 years after establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1994. According to APA, it is the first time in the history of modern Azerbaijan that an Ambassador will work in Afghanistan.

  •  Caucasus Watch, “Azerbaijan Opens Embassy in Kabul, Explores Investment Opportunities in Afghanistan”,
  •, “Azerbaijani Ambassador goes to Afghanistan, presents official letter regarding opening of embassy”,



Irakli Kobakhidze named a new Prime Minister of Georgia

The Parliament of Georgia confirmed on February 8 Irakli Kobakhidze as the new Prime Minister, and the new cabinet of Ministers led by him comprised twelve Ministers, of which eleven have retained their posts, reported

All attending lawmakers from the ruling Georgian Dream party voted in support of PM Kobakhidze’s cabinet and government’s program “For the Construction of a European State” with 84 votes to 10, with 105 MPs present.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili signed the decree on the appointment of Irakli Kobakhidze as Prime Minister later on February 8, stating that the decree was signed immediately “in order not to create an obstacle in the fight against natural disasters, [and] to ensure that relevant acts are issued in time and implemented in a timely manner.” Notably, only the nominee for Minister of Defense, Irakli Chikovani, is new to his post, replacing Juansher Burchuladze, who decided to leave his post.

On February 7, the opposition faction in the Parliament, “United National Movement”, and other political parties and groups held a joint hearing of the Prime Ministerial candidate Irakli Kobakhidze and the candidates for cabinet of ministers. The opposition parties, “Lelo” and “Citizens”, didn’t attend the hearing. Kobakhidze began his speech by emphasising the crucial role of the economy in the country’s development, focusing on infrastructure, energy and Internet access. He spoke of plans to complete key infrastructure projects, such as the West-East highway and the Anaklia project, while emphasising energy development and completing the construction of the hydroelectric power plants. He also mentioned improving internet access and water supply, expanding gasification and promoting tourism.

Kobakhidze noted that agricultural projects would continue and that environmental protection, regional development, education, sports and health care would be the government’s priorities. Kobakhidze emphasised strengthening defense capabilities and plans for full European and Euro-Atlantic integration in the foreign policy area.

As OC Media noted, Georgian Dream has frequently switched prime ministers since coming to power, usually suddenly and without proper explanation. Several of those appointed to the position were previously relative unknowns with little to no political experience. The chair of the ruling Georgian Dream Party, Irakli Kobakhidze, has been chosen by the party as the next Prime Minister of Georgia after Irakli Gharibashvili abruptly stepped down on January 29.

  • KINCHA Shota, OC Media, “Irakli Kobakhidze named next Prime Minister of Georgia”,

  •, “Parliament Confirms PM Kobakhidze and his Cabinet of Ministers”,

  •, “Parliamentary Opposition Joint Hearing of PM Candidate Kobakhidze”,

Georgian Speaker of the Parliament criticises foreign-funded organisations for “meddling in politics”

The speaker of the Georgian Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, has accused foreign-funded organisations of “meddling in politics”, continuing the ruling party’s rhetoric attacking civil society, reported OC Media. In a lengthy Facebook post on February 9, Papuashvili suggested such groups were “proxies for radical parties” and were helping “undermine Georgia’s drive towards the EU”. His comments come less than a year after the government was forced to drop controversial “foreign agents” legislation following protests in the capital, Tbilisi.

Papuashvili’s statement came shortly after ten Georgian watchdog groups issued a joint statement denouncing the speaker’s decision to exclude them from talks about Georgia’s EU candidacy. Papuashvili cited their departure from the National Platform of Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, which includes over 190 local watchdog groups, as a reason behind his decision.

The format discusses nine key reforms the government is expected to implement before the EU opens accession talks to Georgia. Georgian Dream published an action plan to address those recommendations in late December, twelve days after the EU granted Georgia candidate status. In his statement, Papuashvili claimed that a recent Eastern Partnership Index report was “unfairly biased” against Georgia and accused NGOs working on the report of having earlier failed to join discussions between the ruling party and the National Platform.

Papuashvili also criticised donor organisations, alleging that they had allowed groups like the Liberty Institute, a libertarian advocacy group, and online outlet Tabula to become “branches” of the opposition European Georgia Party, claiming that donations were also made to groups that functioned as proxies for opposition political parties.

On February 22, Papuashvili once again called for abolishing “fake NGOs” close to accounts from which the Georgian opposition gets money. “Neither Russian, Swedish, American nor any other money should be involved in Georgian politics,” he stressed. According to Papuashvili, creating fake non-governmental organisations to raise funds for the opposition is very popular. However, it is not in the interests of the Georgian state because “Georgian politics should be made by the Georgian people, financed by Georgian business”.

  • KINCHA Shota, OC Media, “Georgian speaker criticises foreign-funded organisations for ‘meddling in politics’”,

  • Interpressnews, “Shalva Papuashvili: Abolish fake NGOs, close the accounts where you receive money, probably from abroad, and get back to Georgian politics – neither Russian, nor Swedish, nor American, nor any other money should be involved in Georgian politics”,


Georgia seizes Ukrainian explosives allegedly bound for Russia

On February 5, Georgia’s State Security Service (SSG) claimed to have seized 14 kilogrammes of explosives being transported by a group of Ukrainians, Georgians, and Armenians through Georgia to Russia. The director of the SSG’s counter-terrorism department, Bacha Mgeladze, stated the explosives were brought to Georgia on January 19 from the Ukrainian city of Odesa via Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey.

Mgeladze said they had identified seven Georgian nationals, three Ukrainians, and two Armenians suspected of being involved. He accused Andrei Sharashidze, a Georgian–Ukrainian who ran for Odesa’s regional council in 2020 as the candidate of the ruling Servant of the People party, of organising the plot. “The investigation also determined that the above-mentioned people, except for Sharashidze, probably did not know about the explosive devices”, Mgeladze said, as cited by OC Media. He added that the explosives were bound for Voronezh in southwestern Russia.

The incident recalls a blast on Russia’s bridge to Crimea in Oct. 2022, which Moscow says was carried out by Kyiv using explosives hidden in a truck sent from Ukraine on a long route over third countries. Mgeladze said that the authorities in Georgia were worried that they would be “blamed for both the planning and implementation” of a potential terrorist attack in Russia due to the involvement of Georgian nationals in the operation.

“This once again confirms what, in principle, the high-ranking officials of the Ukrainian government openly said that they wanted and probably still want: a second front in our country,” Georgian then Prime Minister-designate Iralki Kobakhidze said, in remarks reported by media outlet Interpressnews.

  • SHOSHIASHVILI Tata, OC Media, “Georgia ‘seizes Ukrainian explosives bound for Russia’”,

  • Reuters, “Georgia accuses Ukraine of trying to spread war after explosives found at the border”,

While Georgia’s tourism soars, exports face a sharp decline

In 2023, Georgia experienced a significant increase in tourism revenues, with more than a fifth of all tourism revenues coming from Russian citizens, according to data released by the National Tourism Administration on February 12. The country reached a record 4,1 billion USD in tourism revenues.

Compared to 2019, international tourism earnings increased by a remarkable 26%, equivalent to 856,7 million USD, and by 17,3% compared to 2022, totalling 608,7 million USD.

Among the various nationalities contributing to Georgia’s tourism sector, Russian tourists emerged as the highest spenders, accounting for 938.4 million USD. Turkish citizens followed closely with 631 million USD, tourists from the EU contributed 549.6 million USD, those from Israel totalled 308.1 million USD, and visitors from Ukraine spent 183.5 million USD, wrote Caucasus Watch.

Meanwhile, on February 19, the National Statistics Service of Georgia (Geostat) released preliminary data about Georgia’s foreign trade in January 2024. In January 2024, exports from Georgia declined by 26.2% to 338.6 million USD, while imports increased by 10.1% to 1 billion USD. Consequently, the country experienced a negative trade balance of 664.1 million USD, accounting for 49.5% of its foreign trade turnover. During this period, Turkey emerged as Georgia’s top trade partner with 233 million USD in trade volume, followed by Russia with 190 million USD, China with 96 million USD, Azerbaijan with 93 million USD, and the United States with 75 million USD.

In terms of exports, Kyrgyzstan led with 46 million USD, followed by Russia with 42 million USD, Azerbaijan with 41 million USD, Armenia with 36 million USD, and Kazakhstan with 36 million USD. Regarding imports, Turkey topped the list with 203 million USD, trailed by Russia with 148 million USD, China with 76 million USD, the United States with 73 million USD, and Germany with 53 million USD.

In January 2024, the primary export commodities included motor cars (112 million USD), ferroalloys (19 million USD), wine of fresh grapes (18 million USD), precious metal ores and concentrates (14 million USD), and spirituous beverages (13 million USD). Meanwhile, major import categories comprised motor cars (101 million USD), petroleum and petroleum oils (80 million USD), petroleum gases and other gaseous hydrocarbons (67 million USD), medicaments put up in measured doses (60 million USD), and telephone sets and apparatus (34 million USD).

  • Caucasus Watch, “Georgia’s Tourism Revenues Soar to Record $4.1 Billion in 2023”,

  • Caucasus Watch, “Georgia Faces Economic Challenge: Exports Decline by 26.2% While Imports Surge in January 2024”,

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