Finance Minister rejects Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report on possible violations of Russia sanctions through Georgia as “manipulation”

Lasha Khutsishvili, the Georgian Finance Minister, accused the Georgian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty of aiming to “damage the country’s image”. Photo: Ministry of Finance, 06 Mar 2024 - 13:03, Tbilisi,Georgia

Lasha Khutsishvili, the Georgian Finance Minister, on Wednesday accused the Georgian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty of aiming to “damage the country’s image” with a report that claimed Georgia had “once again” appeared on a list of countries that Russia could use to purchase dual-use products on the list of sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine.

Khutsishvili rejected the report as “manipulation” in his social media message, and said it had presented official statistics to claim there had been an “unusual rise” in the import of specific dual-purpose goods in Georgia. 

He said the imports had been sourced from only one country, and there was “no evidence” to suggest the products had been sent to a sanctioned country from Georgia.

Khutsishvili also presented specific rejections of claims made in the piece, addressing the article citing the import of equipment and instruments necessary for aeronautical or space navigation from the US has increased six times from $29,000 to $179,000 before noting the total import of the goods had decreased by 14 times compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019, from $2.6 million to $180,000.

On the report’s claims of imports of integrated microchips from the US having increased 10 times over the volume imported in the previous five years - with a total of $50,000 in two years - he said the total import of the goods compared to the period before the Covid-19 pandemic had decreased three times from $5.2 million to $1.6 million.

On the media outlet’s point on the import of ceramic capacitors from the US to Georgia having only resumed in 2022 since 2016, with the total value of $1,670, the official said the total imports amounted to $5,600 in 2019 and $5,700 in 2022.

He also responded to a claim on an increase in semiconductor imports from the US to $1,790 in 2023 by saying the total imports were down 22 percent, from $23,200 to $18,000, from the pre-Covid period.

Virtually all the data given in the article on the example of imports from one country are completely missing the real picture, and this can be easily seen in the same source as indicated in the article”, Khutsishvili said.

The Minister claimed “full implementation” of “effective control mechanisms” for preventing evasion of the sanctions through domestic channels. 

Our partners who imposed the international sanctions have been fully informed about this. Among them, the period mentioned in the article was evaluated by international sanctions coordinators during their visit to Georgia, and the systems implemented by Georgia for the enforcement of sanctions received a high evaluation, which was also announced publicly”, the Minister said.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said in the article it had obtained a document that revealed “significant increase” in microchip imports from the US in 2022. The document also said the country had purchased a “record number” of American technological products during the year of the full-scale war in Ukraine. 

The media outlet said the document had been prepared on February 21 by the Permanent Investigative Subcommittee of the US Senate, which works on the topic of Russia sanctions.

Khutsishvili also said the Revenue Service of the Ministry of Finance had “already responded to these claims” and in its statement, published on February 29, said “no specific facts” had been presented by senators Ron Johnson and Richard Blumenthal to the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to confirm claims of violations of international sanctions imposed on Russia through Georgian territory.

The Georgian official noted the country was “one of the leading” states in enforcing the international sanctions, and was investing “significant resources” in the effort. “No other country does more than Georgia in enforcing international sanctions”, he said.