A Chronology of Russian Embargoes on Georgia

On June 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a ban on flights to Georgia as part of the Russian state’s reaction to the protest in Tbilisi following Duma MP Sergey Gavrilov’s appearance in the Parliament in Tbilisi.

Putin’s order takes effect on July 8, while he also tasked his government with returning Russian citizens on a temporary stay in Georgia and prohibiting Russian tour agencies from organizing travel to the country.

The official Russian reaction to developments in Tbilisi also included calls to boycott tourism and trade goods with Georgia.

The recent developments are not the first case of a Russian embargo on Georgia.

In 2005, the Russian Federation launched a full scale economic blockade against Georgia. The Kremlin chose to target the field of Georgian economy that is most dependent on the Russian market - agriculture.

In December 2005, Russia’s Rosselkhoznadzor, a Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance, carrying out functions on control and supervision in the field of veterinary science, banned the import of Georgian vegetable products for “violating the standards of microbiological composition.”

One month on from this decision, on January 22, 2006, Georgia found itself facing another blockade when the main gas pipeline exploded in the North Caucasus. This disrupted all the thermal power stations, the HPPs could not withstand the load, and as a result, entire Georgia was left without power for days. After the energy blockade, Georgia decided to reduce Russia's influence on natural gas once and for all, and as a result, Russia lost its one main area of leverage against Georgia.

A month after the pipeline explosion, in March 2006, Russia expanded its embargo area and banned wine imports from Georgia. At the time, 20% of total wine exports from Georgia, a value of $153 million, were sent to Russia. As a result of the blockade, the wine export was halved in the first half of 2006. The embargo was a sign for Georgian entrepreneurs to look elsewhere for custom and, as a result of much work, the Russian share in Georgian wine export fell to 2%.

After the detection of Russian spies in Georgia, on October 6, 2006, a Russian cargo plane landed at Tbilisi International Airport with thousands of Georgian citizens who had been expelled from Russia. They were the first of 4,634 citizens of Georgia to be deported. Because of this, 13 years later, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) demanded Russia pay compensation to the Georgian victims of the deportation.

On October 2, 2006, the Russian Federation suspended postal, automobile, aviation, marine and railway connections with Georgia. With this step, Russia violated the International Civil Aviation Convention, as well as a number of bilateral and multilateral agreements signed with Georgia. This embargo ended seven years later, in 2013. After this, export increased four times to Russia and between 2013 and 2018, profit from export to Russia amounted to $396 million.

On June 19, 2019, Georgia’s national Statistics Office (Geostat) released data on foreign trade January-May 2019, according to which Russia is the top export country for Georgia, with income amounting to $218.7 million. Geostat says that the share of Russia in total exports made from Georgia is 14.9%. It was 13.3% last year.

Georgian economic experts say the Russian ban on flights to Georgia will significantly reduce the country’s income. Economist and researcher of NGO Transparency International Georgia, Beso Namchavadze, claims Russia re-opened its market for Georgia in 2013 in order to have more tools to use against the country. But despite the Kremlin decision, the expert notes that Georgia exports twice more goods to the European Union.

“The Russian market is $1.6 trillion while the EU is 12 times bigger, $19 trillion dollars. Russia has been familiar with Georgian products for a long time, but the European Union is discovering more and more Georgian products by the day. This is a good thing: the EU does not deprive us our territories in exchange for a market!” the expert wrote on Facebook, noting that Russia occupies 20% of Georgian territories.

Namchavadze added that “counting on the Russian market, Georgia can improve its economic situation, but with export to the EU market, Georgia can get rich.”

By Thea Morrison

Image source: moneycontrol.com

24 June 2019 17:57