The Russians fleeing the war and mobilization in Georgia pose a threat to the country because Russia could invade the republic under the pretext of protecting them, President Salome Zurabishvili said.
“We can’t just let any number of Russians come into Georgia without knowing who they are. Most are Russians who fled today’s Russia, who are opponents of Putin. But at the same time, there is a danger that this Russian-speaking population could be used by Russia to intervene under the pretext of their insecurity”, Zurabishvili told CNN.
According to her, Russia is now testing its resolve and testing its “soft power” – the propaganda that is carried out through the Russians who came to Georgia. At the same time, she noted that she does not see Russia as a direct military threat to Georgia because Putin does not have enough resources to open a second front along the Georgian border.
Nevertheless, after the start of the Wagner PMC military mutiny on June 24, Zurabishvili called for close monitoring of developments in Russia. “Our border should be under strict control due to possible new waves of migration”, she tweeted.
In late May, Zurabishvili called for restrictions on Russians who arrived in the country over the past year. “It is unclear why no measures and legal regulations have been introduced for the Russians who arrived in Georgia en masse and for their activities, especially in areas such as healthcare, education or even buying real estate and not paying taxes”, the Georgian president said.
Earlier, Thomas Haldenwang, head of Germany’s Federal Constitutional Protection Office, said that German security services had set up surveillance on Russians who had come to the country and supported Russian propaganda.
“Russian propaganda through all channels is directed at these people, given that Russian is common among them, in which Kremlin narratives exist”, Haldenwang noted. In light of the war in Ukraine, he said, Russian propaganda leads to increased extremism in the FRG.
Previously, Czech President Petr Pavel called for “close” surveillance of Russians living in EU countries. “All Russian citizens living in Western countries should be watched much more closely than before. Because they are citizens of a nation waging aggressive war”, Pavel said in an interview with Radio Liberty.
About 1.1 million people could have left Russia after the start of the war in Ukraine and mobilization, Alfa Bank’s macroeconomic analysis center calculated. The Kremlin estimated the number of Russians who left at between 600,000 and 700,000 and a million.
Putin called the outflow of citizens to other countries “rather positive”. “This process will be an element of additional connection of Russia with those countries with which we are already developing economic and humanitarian contacts”, the president explained.