Finance Ministry rejects NBC News report on Russia sanctions violations through Georgia as “utter lie and disinformation”

Screenshot from the footage released by the NBC News., 27 Feb 2023 - 14:37, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Georgian Ministry of Finance on Monday said the claim in an NBC News report on the Georgian territory being used by Russia to circumvent international sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine was an “utter lie and disinformation against the country”.

The Ministry was responding to a February 24 programme on the channel, where reporter Keir Hardie Brennan-Simmons claimed the Russian economy was “surviving despite Western sanctions” by “getting resources from Georgia, China and other countries” to circumvent the sanctions.

While showing busy traffic through the Kazbegi border crossing with Russia in Georgia’s north, Brennan-Simmons said in the report "President Putin's supply line runs through Georgia" and "if you want to know how the Russian economy is surviving amidst punishing western sanctions, you might come here [Georgia]". 

In its response, the Ministry said Georgian authorities were “fully and firmly” adhering to the procedures for the enforcement of the sanctions, adding there was not a “single fact evidencing the opposite”. 

It added “risk profiles” had been drawn up by customs control institutions of the country to verify goods being transported over the border and designated to both individuals and companies in “transit, export and re-export” procedures.

It also noted suggestions on sanctions violation through Georgia - as claimed by “international media” and “voiced by some local and foreign politicians” - throughout the past year had been “mere assumptions and speculations”.

The state body also stressed restrictions on export of goods to Russia were “subject to strict monitoring/enforcement by the Revenue Service of Georgia”, with only goods not on the sanctions list being allowed to be exported across the Georgia-Russia border.

In explaining busy traffic over the Kazbegi border crossing since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, the Ministry pointed out the checkpoint marked one of the “shortest land routes” between Russia and Armenia while also connecting Turkey with Russia.

The statement also lamented “no effort for communication” from authors of the report with Georgian state institutions before airing the story, saying an attempt to verify information with relevant agencies “would have introduced more clarity on the situation at the Kazbegi checkpoint and customs control procedures defined by law”.

The Ministry called the NBC report “clearly unprofessional and partial”, and said it had been “used to discredit Georgia”.