Finance Ministry rejects media “misinterpretation” of US sanctions’ body head comment on Russia sanctions violation

The Georgian Ministry of Finance accused media and “certain politicians” of having “misinterpreted” comments by Jim O'Brien on the enforcement of the sanctions placed on Russia in Georgia. Photo: Ministry of Finance, 09 Jun 2023 - 13:21, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Georgian Ministry of Finance on Thursday accused media and “certain politicians” of having “misinterpreted” comments by Jim O'Brien, the Head of the Office of Sanctions Coordination at the United States Department of State, on the enforcement of the international community’s sanctions placed on Russia in Georgia.

The body’s comments came after an article published on the website of Politico on Thursday, in which authors cited O'Brien as saying Russia’s circumvention of sanctions placed on it for its invasion of Ukraine remained a “substantial problem”.

The publication also cited the official as having “identified issues with five countries in particular: Turkey, Kazakhstan, Georgia, the United Arab Emirates and Armenia”. The authors also said trade between Russia and a number of countries including Georgia had “surged since the start of the Kremlin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to customs records”.

In its response, the Ministry said the claims were being used as “disinformation” against the country, and added O’Brien’s comment, made at the annual meeting of the European Council on Foreign Relations this week, had mentioned Georgia “not as a country where the sanctions imposed by our international partners are being circumvented, but as one that actively cooperates with partners in order to prevent violations of the sanctions [...] as much as possible”.

“Based on the very active and effective cooperation on sanctions-related issues between Georgia and the US, and contrary to the interpretation made by the media outlets and certain politicians, we are assured that Georgia being the cause of the sanctions circumvention does not reflect the position of the United States, nor the nature of our cooperation in this regard”, the Ministry added.

Since the enforcement of the international sanctions on Russia, Georgian authorities have issued over 1,200 customs rulings on rejecting goods at customs checkpoints, and over 800 customs rulings on refusing applications of “various entities”, the state body also pointed out.