Strategic Analysis Caucasus Brief

Monthly review of March

Tomáš Baranec



Armenian PM signals willingness to make territorial concessions to facilitate border deal

Armenia is ready to unilaterally cede to Azerbaijan control of four abandoned border villages formerly inhabited by Azerbaijanis in an effort to avert another round of hostilities, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has confirmed. “Our policy is that we must prevent a (new) war. We must not allow a (new) war to start. And this is also why we have decided to identify the precise border in these areas,” he said on a visit to the area where those villages are located.

As the OC Media explained, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the outbreak of the First Nagorno-Karabakh War in the early 1990s, several areas along the border of both Armenia and Azerbaijan fell under the control of the opposing side. This included the Azerbaijani villages of Baghanis Ayrym, Ashagi Eskipara, Kheyrimli, and Gizilhajili, which remain occupied by Armenia.

The issue of the “four villages” has become a frequent part of the Azerbaijani government’s rhetoric on the ongoing peace talks, with Baku officials suggesting they would take the villages by force if they were not handed over unilaterally. Pashinyan reiterated that the delimitation with Azerbaijan could begin in Tavush, in the areas between the villages of Baghanis and Berkaber. He also stressed that the four villages had never been de jure in Armenia’s territory.

Citing the Alma-Ata and Prague agreements, Pashinyan recently acknowledged that “the former administrative border, which existed during the Soviet Union, is somewhat beyond that present administrative border.” He went on to call for both states to reaffirm the frontier defined by the Alma-Ata agreement. “In the process of [border] delimitation, we must work on reproducing that border in any format,” the Armenian prime minister said. “We must proceed from the de jure reality. What is Armenia is Armenia; what is not Armenia is not Armenia.”

Earlier in 2024, Armenia maintained that Azerbaijan currently controls 31 villages situated in roughly 200 square kilometres of land that are rightfully Armenian. According to, there had been some talk in Yerevan about proposing a trade involving all the disputed settlements. However, Pashinyan did not mention such a swap in his most recent comments. He also noted that one of the main roads connecting Armenia to Georgia runs through one of the Azerbaijani villages under its control and that Armenia should rebuild infrastructure in the area “in the near future”.

Pashinyan’s statements were met with some controversy in Armenia, with former defence minister Seyran Ohanyan warning against a handover of the villages because it would advance Azerbaijani positions. He said the road to Georgia through one of the villages was vital. “In other words, there will be obstacles on the way from Iran to Armenia, Georgia, and Russia”, Ohanyan told RFE/RL.

The proposal was also met with scepticism locally. One resident of Kirants, an Armenian village neighbouring one of the four Azerbaijani villages, expressed concern for the security of their village if this were to go ahead. “We will go out alone, go somewhere, they [Azerbaijanis] will catch us, take us away. It will be like that again. We will not be able to go to our land or leave the child to go to school alone”, said the resident to RFE/RL.

There has not been a specific Azerbaijani response to Pashinyan’s statement. However, in a March 14 speech in Baku, President Ilham Aliyev indicated that Azerbaijan and Armenia were close to a peace deal. “Now that the Karabakh issue is closed, we are very close to peace. That’s what we think,” Aliyev said. “Meetings at the level of the foreign ministers of both countries have now resumed, and we think that peace is reachable. That is what we want. We restored historical justice and international law, and now it’s time to put an end to hostility in the region.”

Pashinian’s party faces more claims of illegal campaign funding

Two investigations by journalists in Armenia have suggested that the ruling Civil Contract party may have lied about the sources of their funding in order to get around rules aimed at removing big money from politics that they themselves introduced, reported the OC Media.

In January, Infocom published an investigation about Civil Contract’s funding of its Yerevan municipal elections campaign last year, while CivilNet and OCCRP published a separate investigation on March 7 covering the donations received by the ruling party in 2022. In particular, it emerged that many of its ostensible donors are unaware of large amounts of money contributed on their behalf to Civil Contract ahead of local elections held in various Armenian regions in 2022.

The party claims to have raised about 170 million drams (420.000 USD) for those polls from 140 persons, the vast majority of them its own election candidates. Civilnet interviewed 31 such individuals and found that 15 of them categorically denied making any campaign donations.

The interviewees included Serob Avetisian, a member of the local council of a community in the southern Ararat province. Civil Contract records show that he donated 1,5 million drams (3.700 USD) to the party. When asked whether he really did so, Avetisian said, “No, you are mistaken.”

Meline Sukiasian, a former council member from the northern Lori province, is shown as having contributed as much as 3 million drams. “I could not have transferred that much money simply because I didn’t have it,” she told the investigating reporters.

The latter also found other “suspicious patterns.” “In ten towns of Armenia, at least ten local council candidates transferred exactly the same amount of money on the same day,” wrote Civilnet. “In 26 cases, donations accounted for at least half of the donors’ annual income and total savings … Four donations exceeded the maximum legal limit of 2.5 million drams set for a single individual donation.”

“While working on the report, I came to the conclusion that Civil Contract used an organised and perhaps illicit mechanism to ensure donations to the party,” Mkrtich Karapetian, a co-author of the article, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. In late January, raised similar questions about lavish campaign donations received by the party in the run-up to last September’s municipal elections in Yerevan. Civil Contract claimed to have raised 506,5 million drams (1,25 million USD) for its election campaign.

The investigative publication revealed that the bulk of that sum was generated by donations ranging from 1 million to 2,5 million drams. It said that their nominal contributors included presumably non-rich people linked to senior government officials and businesspeople as well as ordinary residents of Yerevan who could hardly afford such payments. Many of those residents claimed to be unaware of the hefty sums wired to Pashinian’s party on their behalf.

Pashinian declined to explain those suspicious donations when he was asked about them in the Parliament last month. He denied any lack of financial transparency within his party. Meanwhile, Armenian prosecutors refused to launch a criminal investigation into the Infocom report, saying they found no evidence of the financial irregularities committed by Civil Contract

  • BARSEGHYAN Arshaluys, OC Media, „Armenian ruling party accused of ‘suspicious’ funding sources”,

  • SARIBEKYAN Gayane,,

  •, „SPECIAL REPORT: CivilNet finds irregularities in donations to Armenia’s ruling party”,

  • OCCRP, “Coordinated Cash: Donation Data From Armenia’s Ruling Party Raises Questions About Source of Funds”,

Armenia orders Russian border guards out of Yerevan Airport

Armenia’s Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan announced that Russia has been officially informed its border guards are no longer welcome at Yerevan’s Zvartnots Airport. “The Armenian side has informed [the Russian side] that it does not need [anymore] the border guard service of Russian border guards at the airport; of course, thanking the Russian side,” Mirzoyan said.

Mirzoyan explained that back in 1992, the presence of Russian border guards at Zvartnots was initially intended as a temporary measure to support Armenian independence. “We now believe that Armenia has the institutional capacity to implement border guard services at the airport independently,” he added.

Senior Russian lawmakers have condemned the Armenian Government’s demand. “This is the [Pashinian government’s] first major unfriendly step: it hints that we are not quite welcome in Armenia anymore,” Viktor Bondarev, the first deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s defence committee, wrote on Telegram late on March 7. “In effect, this is Armenia’s slow and steady slide towards unfriendliness, a departure from the foundations of the CSTO,” he added.

Bondarev described the development as a possible prelude to Yerevan’s demand for the withdrawal of all Russian border guards and military forces from Armenia, something which he said would be “fraught with escalation of tensions” in the region. “I would not recommend that the Armenian authorities even think about the withdrawal of Russian troops from Armenia,” warned the former commander of the Russian air force. Konstantin Zatulin, a senior member of Russia’s lower house of Parliament, the State Duma, suggested that such a move by Pashinian’s administration is only a matter of time. “The Armenian government is demonstratively breaking ties with Russia,” he said.



EU Parliament passes resolution supporting Armenia’s prospective EU membership

On March 13, the European Parliament passed a resolution supporting Armenia’s prospective application for EU membership and its steps to distance itself from Russia while warning Azerbaijan against “military adventurism”. Overall, 504 MEPs voted in favour, four against, and 32 abstained.

The document, drafted by the European People’s Party (EPP) group, states that if Armenia is interested in obtaining candidate status and continues on the path of stable reforms, strengthening its democracy, then this could become “the basis for a stage of transformation in EU-Armenia relations”. Members of the European Parliament appealed to EU leaders to actively support Armenia. They called for expanding cooperation between Yerevan and Brussels, covering “not only economic aspects but also political dialogue, integration in various sectors and the security field”.

The authors of the resolution condemned the “invasion of the Azerbaijani armed forces into the internationally recognised territory of Armenia and the continuing partial occupation”. At the same time, it called on Azerbaijan “to withdraw its troops from Armenian territory”. The European Parliament expressed its concern about threats to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Armenia, particularly in the context of Azerbaijan’s demands for creating a corridor linking its western regions with Nakhchivan. At the same time, the European Union reiterated its support for the sovereignty of Armenia and the inviolability of its borders. In addition, the resolution’s authors proposed that the EU be prepared to “impose sanctions against those who threaten the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Armenia”.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan praised the resolution the following day and stressed his Government’s will to “continue the work towards further deepening and development of Armenia–EU relations”. “I believe it should become a subject of public discussion in Armenia. This is another opportunity to discuss Armenia’s vision for the future, said Pashinyan, adding that the subject needed a much wider response” from Armenia’s public.

Since March, senior Armenian officials have been vocal about Yerevan’s intention to apply for EU candidacy. In February, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, announced the launch of an “ambitious” partnership agenda with Armenia, covering visa liberalisation talks and trade and security cooperation.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova warned that Yerevan’s current diplomatic trajectory could create “serious risks” for Armenia’s sovereignty, as well as “destroying” mechanisms ensuring the country’s security and compromising its prospects of socio-economic development.

  • BARSEGHYAN Arshaluys, OC MEDIA, “EU Parliament passes resolution supporting Armenia’s prospective EU membership”,

  • Caucasus Watch, “European Parliament Votes to Consider Granting Armenia EU Candidate Status”,

Armenian banks to block Russian cards after US sanctions

Virtually all Armenian banks have decided to stop processing payments via Russian Mir cards following sanctions imposed by the United States on Russia’s National Card Payment System (NSPK), reported The NSPK announced that it was officially notified that 17 of Armenia’s 18 commercial banks will stop servicing Mir cards through the domestic payments system ArCa from March 30. It said that only the local subsidiary of Russia’s VTB bank will continue to carry out transactions with them from its 53 branches and over 190 ATM machines across the South Caucasus country, as well as online banking platforms.

The Central Bank of Armenia insisted that the other banks made the decision to ditch Mir cards independently. The Union of Armenian Banks attributed the decisions to “the risk of secondary sanctions.” “These risks arose when the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against the Mir payment system,” the union told the Russian Sputnik news agency. The OFAC said in February that Russia has been using the system to evade the sweeping Western sanctions.

According to Armenian entrepreneurs have cashed in on the sanctions, re-exporting second-hand cars, consumer electronics and other goods manufactured in Western countries and their allies to Russia. This explains why Armenia’s exports to Russia tripled in 2022 and doubled in January-August 2023. A resulting dramatic increase in cash flows from Russia has also greatly benefited Armenian banks. They tripled their combined profits to a record 253 billion drams (626 million USD) in 2022. The figure fell slightly in 2023.

Russia developed Mir in 2015 to circumvent Western sanctions following its annexation of Crimea, but it has come under US scrutiny since Moscow started the invasion of Ukraine. Mir’s suspensions hinder Russian nationals abroad from making non-cash transactions after Western sanctions rendered their Russian-issued Visa and Mastercard cards unusable in March 2022.

Some banks in other Russia-friendly countries, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, have also suspended the use of Mir. More than half of Russia’s population is estimated to have a Mir card.




Overview of Azerbaijani oil and gas exports in early 2024

In the first two months of 2024, Azerbaijan exported 4,1 billion cubic meters of gas. Of this amount, 2,1 billion cubic meters were exported to Europe, marking a 10,5 per cent increase compared to the same period last year. Additionally, 1,4 billion cubic meters were exported to Turkey, and 0,6 billion cubic meters were supplied to Georgia, reported Caucasus Watch.

Notably, 0,8 billion cubic meters of gas were transported to Turkey through the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) during this period. These figures indicate that Europe accounted for approximately 51 per cent of all Azerbaijan gas exports during the period mentioned.

In January 2024, Gas supplies from Azerbaijan to Italy through the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) reached 878 million cubic meters, marking a 3,1 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2023. The Italian Ministry of Environment and Energy Security highlighted that in 2023, Italy received approximately 10 billion cubic meters of gas from Azerbaijan via TAP, reflecting a decrease of 3,2 per cent compared to the previous year. TAP, an extension of the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), transports gas from the Shah Deniz field in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea as part of the “Stage-2” development project, which aims to supply gas to Europe.

Meanwhile, data released by the State Customs Committee (SCC) of Azerbaijan on March 18 revealed that oil exports from the country during January-February 2024 reached 4 million 595 thousand 490,11 tons. This represents a notable decrease of 11,2 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year. These oil exports amounted to 2 billion 826 million 58,64 thousand USD, a decline of 13,1 per cent compared to the previous year.

During the specified period, oil’s share of Azerbaijan’s total export structure stood at 59,12 per cent, a decrease from the 71,91 per cent recorded in January-February 2023. Furthermore, in January-February 2024, Azerbaijani oil found buyers in 16 countries, with Romania, Czech Republic, Poland, France, Germany, and Croatia newly joining the list last month.

Despite a general decrease, exports of Azerbaijani oil to the Czech Republic reached a four-year high. In January 2024, the Czech Republic imported 207,7 thousand tons of oil from Azerbaijan, marking a 2 per cent increase compared to the same period in the previous year. According to Interfax-Azerbaijan, citing its sources, the value of oil imported from Azerbaijan to the Czech Republic in January 2024 totalled 120,6 million EUR, representing a decrease of 6,5 per cent year-on-year.

Russia was the primary supplier of crude oil to the Czech Republic during the month, providing 292,7 thousand tons worth 158,2 million EUR, followed by Azerbaijan with 207,7 thousand tons worth 120.6 million EUR and Kazakhstan with 122,2 thousand tons worth 70.8 million EUR. In 2023, the Czech Republic imported approximately 2 million tons of oil from Azerbaijan, marking a 13,9 per cent increase compared to the previous year. This volume represents the highest recorded in the past four years.

  • Caucasus Watch, “Azerbaijan Boosts Gas Exports to Europe, Turkey, and Georgia in Early 2024”, 2024.html

  • Caucasus Watch, “Azerbaijani Gas Exports to Italy Rise Amidst Overall Energy Shifts”,

  • Caucasus Watch, “Azerbaijan’s Oil Trade with the Czech Republic Hits Four-Year High”,

Surplus in Azerbaijan’s foreign trade balance grows by 25 per cent in early 2024

On March 18, the State Customs Committee (SCC) of Azerbaijan reported that the country’s foreign trade turnover for January-February 2024 stood at 7 billion 226,61 million USD, a modest 0,7 per cent increase over the same period last year.

During the first two months of the current year, Azerbaijan experienced a 5,7 per cent rise in export operations, totalling 4 billion 779,97 million USD, while import operations declined 7,7 per cent to 2 billion 446,64 million USD. Notably, Azerbaijan’s foreign trade balance in the reporting period yielded a surplus of 2 billion 333,33 million USD, a 25 per cent increase over the previous year, as noted by Caucasus Watch.

During this reporting period, gas exports contributed 30,54 per cent of Azerbaijan’s total exports, a notable rise from 11,11 per cent in January-February 2023. The value of gas exports from Azerbaijan reached 1 billion 459 million 774 thousand USD, reflecting a growth of 2,9 times.

Meanwhile, as reported by Eurasianet, Baku is also emerging as a hub for North-South trade, as reflected by its significant jump in exports to Russia. Russia-bound exports increased in 2023 by almost 23 per cent, reaching 1,2 billion USD. Imports from Russia rose 16 per cent, topping 3,2 billion USD. The bulk of Azeri exports to its northern neighbour were non-energy-related goods.

According to Toghrul Valiyev, a Baku-based independent economist, changes in trade patterns precipitated by the Ukraine war have heightened Azerbaijan’s reliance on Russian trade. Before the war, he noted, European imports came to the country through Russia. Those same goods are now more expensive. “[All] this leads to increased dependence on those products that turn out to be cheaper,” he said. “And products from Russia in certain [cases] turn out to be cheaper,” said Valiyev, as cited by

According to local experts, trade relations between Moscow and Baku might even deepen in the future due to the continuous development of the North-South corridor. The project aims to create a network of road, rail and shipping routes stretching nearly 4,500 miles from Mumbai to Moscow via Iran and the Caucasus.

  •  Caucasus Watch, “Surplus in Azerbaijan’s Foreign Trade Balance Grows by 25% in Early 2024”,
  • BENSON Brawley,, “Azerbaijan: Keeping trade options open”,


Azerbaijan-Russia relations bolstered with new bilateral agreements in Baku

The Azerbaijani Prime Minister Ali Asadov and Chairman of the Russian Government Mikhail Mishustin signed significant documents during their meeting on March 5 in Baku. The documents mainly focused on tourism, culture, and the enhancement of bilateral cooperation regarding the development of Azerbaijan-Russia state border crossing points and road infrastructure.

“Of course, I want to say that we are sincerely interested in strengthening ties and cooperation with Azerbaijan. That is our approach,” Mishustin said. According to him, the declaration on allied cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan is a reliable basis for this collaboration. The Russian press service underscored the gratification with the enduringly high cultural and humanitarian cooperation level. Both parties committed to sustaining exchanges in culture, science, and youth and fostering mutual educational endeavours in the future, emphasising the imperative of its continued advancement. Mishustin noted, in this respect, that “over 7,000 Azerbaijani students study in Russia”.

The parties also deliberated on prevailing economic, commercial, and investment cooperation matters. They underscored the significance of joint projects in energy, industry, transport, agriculture, and cultural-humanitarian domains, in line with agreements and directives from both heads of state. Both parties expressed contentment with the notable 4,3 billion USD bilateral trade recorded in 2023, affirming their commitment to sustaining the growth trajectory of mutual trade.

Furthermore, they acknowledged the uptick in mutual investment activity and reaffirmed mutual interest in advancing cooperation on priority investment initiatives. Notably, the successful implementation of collaborative projects in industrial cooperation, including truck and commercial vehicle production and pharmaceutical preparation, was highlighted.

According to Caucasus Watch, the pivotal area of Azerbaijan-Russia collaboration lies in the transport-transit domain. A Russian government statement said the two parties signed an agreement on operating and maintaining the bridge at the Yarag-Kazmalyar-Samur border checkpoint. The parties emphasised the significance of the North-South International Transport Corridor and applauded joint efforts to optimise its functionality. Indicating that the two sides also agreed on an action plan to develop checkpoints across the Russia-Azerbaijan border, the statement said they signed a roadmap to enhance bilateral tourism in 2024-2026.

New wave of repressions against Journalists in Azerbaijan

On March 6, Azerbaijani police raided Toplum TV in the capital, Baku, and the homes of some of its staff and detained several people, according to its Editor-in-Chief, Khadija Ismayilova. Two days later, police made additional arrests, including Toplum TV’s co-founder Alasgar Mammadli. Besides Mammadli, three of Toplum TV’s journalists – video editor Mushfiq Jabbar, reporter Farid Ismayilov and social media manager Elmir Abbasov — remain in custody on smuggling charges.

Authorities also detained four people associated with the Institute for Democratic Initiatives, including the nonprofit’s chair, Akif Gurbanov. The Azerbaijani organisation carries out training with Toplum TV, reported VOA. Several foreign politicians and international organisations were swift to condemn the arrests. US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller stated the country’s “strong objections” to attempts to “intimidate, repress, and punish” journalists, civil society activists, and opposition figures. “We call on Azerbaijan to end the harassment of those exercising their fundamental freedoms and urge the release of all individuals being unjustly held in politically motivated cases”, said Miller. He added that American officials repeated the points in “private diplomatic conversations” with their Azerbaijani counterparts.

Freedom House, an international non-governmental organisation, condemned the “unacceptable attack” on critical voices in Azerbaijan. “We urge democratic governments to hold the regime accountable for this wave of repression”, they wrote.

  •  GOYUSHZADE Aziza, VOA, “Journalists Arrested in Raid on Azeri Media Outlet”,
  • FARHADOVA Aytan, OC Media, “Azerbaijan charges journalists and activists following Toplum TV raid”,
  •, „Is the closure of Toplum TV Baku’s response to the Council of Europe?”,


Georgian President Vetoes Electoral Code Amendments

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili on March 5 vetoed amendments to the election code, approved by the Parliament, that stipulated transfer of the power to elect the chair and members of the Central Election Commission to the President if the legislative body failed to elect them in two attempts. The changes involved a stipulation that if the Parliament fails to elect a candidate to the chair by a three-fifths majority and again by 76 votes twice, the decision is transferred to the President’s office.

In her comments, Zurabishvili said the changes failed to improve the role of her office in the “appointments, leaving it “limited”. “[The proposal] cannot substantially change the degree of involvement and role of the President because there is a very low probability that the Parliament of Georgia will not be able to elect a candidate twice with a majority of [76 votes]”, the statement said.

On the same day, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze described President Zurabishvili’s veto on the electoral legislation and procedural changes “as yet another example of her actions against the state”. Kobakhidze asserted, “Salome Zurabishvili is involved in the discrediting campaign of the CEC; this is one of her tasks. Therefore, of course, her veto was logical. This is another continuation of her anti-state activities. However, once again, this veto will certainly not create a problem for the stable development of the processes. Of course, the veto will be overridden, this decision has been taken by the parliamentary majority. Accordingly, everything will be done so the CEC can effectively conduct elections. Salome Zurabishvili has exactly the opposite goal.”

Notably, the proposed amendments aimed to alter the procedure for electing the chair and non-partisan members (referred to as “professional members”) of the Central Election Commission (CEC) and eliminate the position of Deputy Chair of the CEC, traditionally designated for the opposition representative, commented Caucasus Watch.

On March 19, the Georgian Parliament decisively overturned Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili’s veto on amendments to the electoral code. With 78 MPs voting in favour of the override and only 13 against, the original amendments were adopted, disregarding the President’s objections.

During the plenary session, before the vote, Mamuka Mdinaradze, the leader of the parliamentary majority, asserted that the Parliament would not entertain any recommendations that undermine the country’s sovereignty. He emphasised, “We will not consider any conclusion of the Venice Commission or any other commission directed against Georgia, its democratic development, and sovereignty.”

  •, “Georgian President vetoes amendments to Election Commission member election regulations”,
  • Caucasus Watch, “Georgian President Vetoes Electoral Code Amendments”,
  • Caucasus Watch, “Georgian Parliament Asserts Power, Overrides Presidential Veto”,
Georgia Criticises EU and Ukraine over Wanted Former UNM Officials

Georgia has requested that Germany and the EU detain and extradite Zurab Adeishvili, a wanted former United National Movement (UNM) official, after he took part in an official visit to Brussels and Berlin as part of a Ukrainian delegation. Adeishvili, who is currently serving as an adviser to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, Andriy Kostin, stirred controversy in Georgia after taking part in meetings with German MPs and Gert Jan Koopman, the Director General of the European Commission for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, as part of a Ukrainian delegation led by Kostin on March 6.

Adeishvili is wanted in Georgia on charges of abuse of power and the humiliation and inhumane treatment of prisoners while serving as Prosecutor General and then Justice Minister between 2004 and 2012. In 2019, Adeishvili was also found guilty of seeking to bankrupt Cartu Bank, a bank owned by the founder of the currently ruling Georgian Dream party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, and sentenced in absentia. Georgia’s Prosecutor’s Office submitted its request for Adeishvili’s extradition on March 11.

Several senior members of the ruling Georgian Dream party have called on the EU to detain and extradite the former UNM official, with Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze stating that Adeishvili’s participation in the meetings was an “attack on European values, including the principle of the rule of law”.

The ruling party has also called on Ukraine to extradite another former UNM official, Giorgi Lortkipanidze, who served as a deputy Interior Minister during the party’s rule. Lorkapanidze is the deputy head of Ukraine’s Counterintelligence Department. He is currently on trial in absentia on charges of exceeding his official authority in the violent dispersal of protesters in Tbilisi in May 2011. He also stands accused of helping the currently imprisoned former President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, in “illegally crossing the border”.

The Georgian Government stated that it found Ukraine’s appointment of Adeishvili and Lortkipanidze to official positions to be “disturbing” and called on Kyiv to extradite them. “We remind you that [they] led the authoritarian regime of the previous government of Georgia, which destroyed many people’s lives, health, and well-being”, read the Government’s statement.

Germany and the EU largely dismissed Tbilisi’s reaction to Adeishvili’s participation in meetings as part of a Ukrainian delegation. The German Embassy in Georgia told RFE/RL that Adeishvili had visited the German Parliament as a Ukrainian Ambassador’s delegation member. They stated, “There was no reason based on the principles of the rule of law to ban him from entering the parliament.”

At the same time, Kobakhidze announced that “there is general readiness” for a high-level visit by the ruling party lawmakers to Ukraine, provided Kyiv agrees to solve three issues: 1. Ukraine’s dismissed ambassador to Georgia 2. allegations against the authorities of aiding Russia’s smuggling and 3. Georgian “radical opposition leaders being represented at a high level in the Ukrainian Government.”

Shortly after Kobakhidze’s statements, David Arakhamia, leader of the “Servant of the People” faction in the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada, outlined three steps that Georgia must take to “normalise relations” with Ukraine. These included releasing from prison and returning to Ukraine Mikheil Saakashvili (who is a Ukrainian citizen), suspending direct flights with Russia “as demanded by the Georgian people themselves,” and stopping “helping the aggressor to evade sanctions.” “Then the normalisation will be easy,” noted Arakhamia.

Mine Entrance Blocked Near Shukruti in Renewed Protest against Georgian Manganese

Residents of a village, Shukruti, near the Georgian mining town of Chiatura, have blocked access to a mine running under their village to demand adequate compensation for the destruction of their settlement. Residents of Shukruti, in western Georgia, set up a tent outside the mine entrance on March 13, the latest in a series of protests against mining company Georgian Manganese.

The land in and around Shukruti began to collapse in 2019, with Georgian Manganese initially denying any connection to the mines running beneath. As Saqartvelos Ambebi reminds us, in 2021, residents of Shukruti staged a loud and long protest with the same demands. During the rally, participants sewed up their faces and went on a 30-day hunger strike. Eventually, when the protest reached the vicinity of the US Embassy in Tbilisi, prompting a response from the diplomatic corps, Georgian Manganese signed an agreement with eight affected families.

The victims were prohibited from disclosing the contract terms at the company’s insistence. However, Mtis Ambebi has learned that the contract stipulated that the Forensic Expertise National Bureau would assess the property, after which compensation would be provided. All of this was supposed to be completed within six months.

Nevertheless, protester Giorgi Neparidze stated that the Forensic Bureau did not give a conclusion in the end. While five out of eight families received partial compensation based on the company’s audit, three families have not received anything to date. “They gave 7, 8, 12, 20 thousand GEL to a large part of the village population and silenced them; they signed a document, some thank-you note. Some were offered employment. That’s how it goes,” said one of the protesters, as cited by Saqartvelos Ambebi.

Another protester, Jumberi, told OC Media that the company had agreed in 2021 to compensate some residents only for damage to their houses, not their total value or relocation. Since then, he said, the houses had continued to collapse. “Now, there is such a situation here that nothing will be left at all”, he added. Jumberi said that the recent deadly landslide in Shovi had caused people to worry that the same could happen in the nearby village of Itkhvisi, claiming that Georgian Manganese had shut down several mines in response to the tragedy.

Georgian Manganese claimed to have fully compensated the residents of Shukruti, dismissing those protesting as a “radical group […] trying to mislead the public”.  “The radical group, which makes demands to the company, has already received compensation. Funds were gradually disbursed in different years according to the individual private property assessment”, read the company’s statement. Georgian Manganese acquired a 40-year mining license to operate a mine under Shukruti in 2006.



Georgian Dream Pushes for Anti-LGBT Constitutional Law

On March 25, Mamuka Mdinaradze, the leader of the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority, presented a draft constitutional law on the “protection of family values and underaged persons.”

At the briefing, held at the office of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Mdinaradze outlined the proposed tenets of the draft law. Georgia’s draft Constitutional Law on Family Values and Protection of Minors would ban any gathering, product, or educational programme which “popularises”: “same-sex families or intimate relations”, “same-sex or non-heterosexual” child adoption, gender transitioning, the idea there are more than two genders and incest. The changes would also prohibit any medical assistance in gender transitioning or any legal gender recognition for transgender people.

According to Mdinaradze, after adopting this constitutional law, the Parliament will also vote on the amendment of Article 30 of the Georgian Constitution, which defines marriage rights and the rights of the mother and children. According to Mdinaradze, an additional part of the article will define that “the protection of family values and underaged persons will be ensured by the constitutional law,” referring to the law mentioned above.

The OC Media stressed that the ruling party currently holds only 82 of 150 seats in Parliament, far short of the 113 needed to push through constitutional changes outright. If the changes were supported by at least 100 MPs, two-thirds of lawmakers could be approved by the next convocation of the Parliament with another vote by 100 MPs. During the press conference, Mdinaradze also suggested the party planned to introduce other related changes requiring a majority of 76 to pass.

The announcement of plans for constitutional legislation to protect family values and the rights of minors comes weeks after Mdinaradze announced the ruling majority’s intention to draft what he called an “anti-LGBT propaganda” law. In response to criticism that such a law would violate the Constitution, the ruling majority had announced that it wouldn’t draft the anti-constitutional law and instead announced today the plans to amend the Constitution itself.

According to the OC Media, such changes could torpedo Georgia’s bid for EU membership. In their requirements for Georgia to advance its accession process, the EU Commission said the country needed to “move swiftly to strengthen the protection of human rights of vulnerable groups”. The Commission went on to call on the Georgian Government to ensure the right to freedom of assembly, citing their failure to prevent far-right groups from ransacking a planned Pride festival in 2023. Georgian Dream’s proposals would likely outright ban pride events from being held.

  • KINCHA Shota, OC Media, “Georgian Dream announces constitutional changes to outlaw queer ‘propaganda’ and gender transitioning”,

  •, “GD Pushes for Anti-LGBT Constitutional Law”,

The Ruling Party Declined the Vetting of Judges by Foreign Embassies as Unconstitutional

On March 23, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze said the proposal of the opposition United National Movement party on the introduction of vetting of Georgian judges by foreign embassies was “against the principle of the rule of law” and the Georgian Constitution and contradicted judicial independence. “[Introducing] vetting means admitting that your state institutions failed”, Kobakhidze said, adding Georgia’s state institutions were successful, and the vetting system was “absolutely unnecessary” in the country. He also noted the previous UNM government used vetting as one of the instruments to “subjugate the judicial system”.

One day earlier, the European Commission’s Spokesperson of the European External Action Service (EEAS) claimed in a brief statement that the comprehensive reform of the judiciary, with an accent on the integrity of all leading positions in the judiciary, is part of “fundamentals”—the preconditions for opening the accession negotiations. In particular, the statement noted that “Georgia needs to establish a system of extraordinary integrity checks, with the involvement of international experts with a decisive role in the process, for candidates and persons currently appointed to all leading positions in the judiciary, in particular the High Council of Justice, the Supreme Court, and court presidents.”

The ruling party can rely on the Supreme Court’s earlier statement that the “vetting unequivocally, essentially and fundamentally undermines the independence of the court or individual judges, undermines public confidence in the justice system, and aims to consolidate negative public opinion about the need for the evaluation of conscientiousness to facilitate political control over the judiciary”. The XXXII Conference of Judges of Georgia, a self-governing body of Georgian common courts, held on March 24 “unanimously supported” the statement made by the Supreme Court of Georgia”.

  •, “Georgian PM says vetting of domestic judges by diplomatic corps against the rule of law principle”,

  • Interpressnews, „Supreme Court expresses concern about of introduction of vetting system“,

  •, “EC Tells Georgia Judge Vetting Part of EU Negotiation Fundamentals”,

  •, “Judicial Conference Condemns Vetting, Elects Two to HCoJ”,

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