Interview with Channel 4

Now off to Georgia, which has an uncomfortable number of things in common with Ukraine: neither belongs to NATO and the EU, both are former Soviet republics and both have histories of being invaded by Russia. In 2008, Russia started Europe’s first 21st-century war by invading Georgia. The conflict was over in a matter of days. Georgians know best what Russian aggression means. Earlier today, I spoke to Georgia’s President Salome Zourabichvili and started by asking what her view is on what’s happening in Ukraine.

Well I am watching the events with great concern for the Ukrainian population, for the Ukrainian soldiers that are fighting in such difficult conditions. I’m also watching with great admiration because tomorrow will be one month since the fight has started and I think that they have defeated all the expectations that this would be a short war, that Russia was so powerful, that they would overcome the Ukrainian defenses and they have proven Vladimir Putin very wrong.

Are the Georgian people straightforwardly on the side of the Ukrainian people?

They are completely on the side of the Ukrainian people and they cannot be otherwise because we have gone through the same war in 2008. So we know what it looks like even if the war in Georgia was shorter, the capacity of the military resources of Georgia are nothing close to what Ukraine has and that is a reason why the Georgian population is very united. You practically cannot walk on the streets of Tbilisi without seeing Ukrainian flags everywhere.

Do you fear that you will be next and do you think Russia would try to move into Georgia regardless of what happens in Ukraine because victory in Ukraine is not as straightforward as they’re saying?

The victory is not straightforward and it’s already a defeat. Whatever happens next is already a defeat for Russia. It’s a defeat for Russian power projection, it’s a defeat because it has united Europe, it’s a defeat because it has shown that Europe and the United States are ready this time for sanctions as they have never been before, it’s a defeat because now everybody understands what Russia is in essence and what Russian imperialism means.

What will be next? I don’t know whether it will be Georgia or something else or whether we will have a totally different Russia. All of that are speculations that I’m in no capacity to make at this stage.

You’re being very clear but we are also reading here that Georgia is not straightforwardly united and that the governing party, perhaps even the Prime Minister, feels different to the way you’re speaking…

Well I don’t think he feels differently. He has been more cautious maybe in his wording than I am, that’s a difference of characters maybe. But I don’t think there is any difference. The population again is completely united, we have 20,000 Ukrainian refugees in Georgia, we have also about the same number of Russians that have left Russia most probably because they did not agree with the way their government is launching this war against Ukraine.

The Western world meets tomorrow in Europe. Is there anything you would like them to do to guarantee the security of Georgia?

Well I think that I cannot not mention that we have had since 2008 war a European Union Monitoring Mission on the occupation line that has provided a sense of security. Of course, they are not there to defend militarily but they are there to observe and monitor and that has been something very important. I think that’s what’s at stake tomorrow - the peacekeepers mission in Ukraine that would be an important step. I think the Russians know that and that’s why they are making again threats.

How do you believe peace could be brought to Ukraine?

The thing is that compromise is something that President Zelenskyy only can decide what is the compromise that he would be ready to accept. He has paid a very high price, his population has paid a very high price and so the compromise is something that has to be in line with the price that he has paid.

And do you believe President Putin would respect a compromise?

Well, he would respect if he is conscribed to respect it. He will never respect by his own choice. If the West remains united, if the sanctions remain in force, if he feels that the strength is on the Western side, and I think he will feel it, then he will respect it.

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