Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on Friday pledged “not a single" airline or aircraft sanctioned for Russia's invasion of Ukraine would be allowed to operate in Georgia following the resumption of direct flights between the countries this week.
Garibashvili said his Government was aiming to "protect the interests of the population" and added “whoever does not want the country to overcome poverty and unemployment is the enemy of the country”.
I had meetings with our European friends, leaders [during the visit to Iceland], and I explained to them that [restoration of direct flights with Russia] is in our national interest [...] I explained that this is a component of economic and trade relations [...] all these things serve to protect the interests of our country - it makes it easier for our citizens to move [between the countries]”, the PM said.
He also noted Western countries did not change their policy towards Russia in response to its 2008 invasion of Georgia, and stressed "my goal is to protect our country and interests of our people”.
The Government head told state leaders at the event his country" cannot follow" the West's “very strict approach” towards Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
We are neither a member of NATO nor a member of the European Union, we are occupied - 20 percent [of Georgia’s territory] is occupied, the Russian army is stationed on our territory - [and] we have a direct border with Russia and [...] our own challenges. Stop thinking and working for the interests of other countries - they will take care of themselves”, Garibashvili said.
The Prime Minister also said despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and corresponding sanctions imposed on the country, neither the European Union nor the United States had cut off trade with it.
He also noted economic growth of Georgia over the recent years
“Today, unemployment and poverty are at a historic low, and our country's reserves are at a historic high. The country has more than $5 billion in reserves. Wages, pensions, social benefits have increased”, he said crediting his Government's “correct policy” with the outcome.