Georgia's March 2022 position, on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, came as a shock to many Ukrainians. Although the country condemned Russia’s aggression, it refused to provide military assistance to Ukraine or agree to join sanctions against Russia. It has since been discovered, following a journalist’s investigation, that the Tbilisi Aviation Plant, a state-owned Georgian enterprise, is involved in the repair of Russian combat aircraft.
Khatia Dekanoidze, a member of the Georgian parliament, stated in an interview with RBC-Ukraine that these decisions show that the Georgian authorities have a pro-Russian stance.
“Georgian oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia in the early 1990s, currently wields significant influence in Georgia. In 2012, he became prime minister, but resigned the following and remained in the shadows,” she explained.
Investigations, by a Georgian TV channel, revealed that a partner of Ivanishvili, Georgian businessman Tamaz Somkhishvili, owns a company called TAM-Management.
The company operates out of facilities of the state-owned Tbilisi Aviation Plant, where it is involved in repairing and upgrading Russian SU-25 aircraft, MI-24, MI-8 helicopters and R60/73 air-to-air missiles. TAM-Management maintains a representative office in Moscow and is part of the Sukhoi Aircraft Manufacturing Company. Russian registers indicate that the company is actively fulfilling contracts on behalf of the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Tamaz Somkhishvili was granted British citizenship in 2017 and owns the Georgian business group TS Holding which includes TAM-Management.
Ukrainian political expert, Vitaliy Kulik, commented that Somkhishvili and Ivanishvili have a joint business, which is confirmed by information from the Georgian state registers of legal entities. He noted that Ivanishvili's family was placed under Ukrainian sanctions, in October 2022.
"Somkhishvili, on the recommendation of Ivanishvili, was appointed to manage TAM Management and, he in turn, appointed a relative, Giorgi Somkhishvili, as head of joint affairs in the Tbilisi Aviation Plant. Both hold both British and Russian citizenship," Kulik said.
Documents, revealed by Defense Intelligence of Ukraine during judicial proceedings in Kyiv, confirmed that Tamaz Somkhishvili is a Russian citizen.
In the 1990s, he was the general director of the Russian companies Lukoil, Lukoil Markets, and Rosneftexport. Somkhishvili is also a part of the Pandora Paper's investigation. He is accused of organizing criminal schemes in Kyiv and Odesa, related to the confiscation of land from municipal ownership. His Ukrainian company, Kyiv Terminal, is seeking $100 million in compensation from the city of Kyiv for an investment agreement, under which no work was carried out, that was terminated by mutual agreement in 2013,.
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