A rally held by Georgian activists and politicians in protest of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s family members’ visit to Georgia was met with repressions from the authorities. Moshe Vinokurov, the brother of Lavrov’s son-in-law, was supposed to host a wedding in the hotel complex Kvareli Lake. Lavrov’s daughter Ekaterina Vinokurova [Lavrova] and son-in-law Alexander Vinokurov were in Georgia too. They are sanctioned by the EU, Great Britain, and a few other countries.
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On May 20, from 5 am, after the former Chairman of the United National Movement party, Nika Melia managed to access Kvareli Lake premises, Kakheti police chiefs took it upon themselves to personally guard the safety of Lavrov’s family members. Nika Melia insisted that Lavrov’s family members will not be allowed to hold a wedding. Confrontations between members of the opposition and police chiefs soured multiple times. Melia was reminding policemen that Russia currently occupies 20% of Georgia, is currently slaughtering peaceful civilians in Ukraine, and it was unacceptable for Lavrov’s family to enjoy themselves in Georgia. The deputy police chief called the opposition politician a “political corpse” a number of times. Policemen arrested one of the men accompanying Melia on the spot and ordered the others to leave the area.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs mobilized over a hundred policemen, including members of spec ops divisions over the surrounding area of Kvareli Lake.
In the morning, activists also started to fill the area to try to disrupt the wedding. Police detained at least 16 protesters and treated demonstrators with particular hostility which caused many injuries among the crowd. Lawyers were not allowed to visit detainees and the Ministry of Internal Affairs was refusing to disclose the location of arrested protesters to human rights defenders.
In their statements, Kvareli complex Administration denied the presence of Foreign Minister Lavrov’s daughter on their premises. According to the statement, no one by the name of Lavrov was residing in the hotel.
Lavrov’s sanctioned daughter and son-in-law
In fact, Moshe Vinokurov (brother of Lavrov’s son-in-law) and Diana Akhmadishina signed a civil marriage in Tbilisi on May 19, which is corroborated by the photos posted by the couple on social media. After that, they traveled to Kakheti along with guests and distributed them among two hotels – Kvareli Lake Resort located in Kvareli and Akhasheni Wine Resort & Spa in Gurjaani region’s village of Akhalsheni. Also in Kakheti were Moshe Vinokurov’s brother – Alexander Vinokurov - a businessman closely affiliated with Putin and his wife Ekaterina Vinokurova (birth name – Lavrova).
Ekaterina Vinokurova was born in 1982 in New York City, United States, but was sanctioned by the US in April 2022.
For better or worse, her husband, Alexander Vinokurov is also sanctioned by the EU, Great Britain, Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Ukraine.
According to the Council of the European Union, Alexander Vinokurov is a Russian businessman with interests in food retail, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and infrastructure. He holds senior positions in investment company Maraton Group and Russia’s largest food company Magnit and also owns shares in Demetra Holding, which is Russia’s second-largest importer of grain (while Russia is the largest importer of grain in the world). His father, Semyon Vinokurov, was the head of the state unitary enterprise Capital Pharmacies and is considered one of the largest manufacturers in the Russian pharmaceutical industry. The EU holds that Alexander Vinokurov has close ties with the Russian Government and is involved in the economic sectors that provide a large chunk of income for the state. After the outbreak of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Alexander Vinokurov, together with 36 other businessmen, met with President Vladimir Putin and other members of the Russian Government to discuss the course of action following the sanctions by the West.
“The fact that he was invited to this meeting is a testament that he falls within Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and supports and/or enables actions and policies that undermine and endanger the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine, as well as stability and safety. It also shows that he is one of the leading businessmen and is involved in economic sectors that provide a significant portion of income for the Russian Government, which is responsible for the annexation of Crimea and destabilizing Ukraine. This is further reinforced by Vinokurov’s tight personal connections with the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who is responsible for Russia’s war of aggression and policies,” states EU Council.
The Swiss public broadcaster refers to Alexander Vinokurov as the rising star of the Russian Oligarchy.
According to the materials of an independent Russian publication “Important Histories”, Lavrov’s son-in-law has Israeli citizenship. He repatriated to Israel with his parents back in 1990. His family is registered in the city of Netanya.
Sergey Lavrov’s daughter and wife of Alexander Vinokurov, Ekaterina Vinokurova, is sanctioned by Great Britain, the United States, Australia, Japan, and Ukraine.
President’s statement – “What do you mean you didn’t know who had entered”
A rally was also planned in Tbilisi, in front of the Parliament building, to protest the visit of Lavrov’s family members. Shortly before the rally, the President of Georgia made an announcement claiming that she spoke with the Minister of Internal Affairs, who promised her that “those people are gone, and the wedding will no longer take place”.
“This is the victory of the society, just like Gavrilov’s ousting from the country back in the day, but this is a single incident and does not solve the core problem,” remarked the president. According to her, the government has a huge responsibility, and first and foremost, the border must be secured.
“What do you mean you didn’t know who had entered? You mean a son of the highest official under sanctions, who is within a close inner circle of Putin, arrives in the country and we don’t know? Yesterday, they supposedly didn’t know Saakashvili crossed the border, today, they don’t know sanctioned Russians are coming in willy-nilly.
I call on the government to urgently introduce lists from our ally states of sanctioned individuals to guide the border crossing units so that no sanctioned persons can enter.
This is the least amount of security for this country, which is under constant threat because of its geopolitical position, and needs protection far more than those European countries that are much further and more secure,” said Zurabishvili.
“We learned she was Lavrov’s daughter later, she changed her surname” – Volski
“We found out later that she was Lavrov’s daughter. She is Vinokurova now, she changed to her husband’s surname. As I am told, it was her husband’s brother’s wedding, and he is known for his anti-Russian statements, including on Facebook, and has had quite positive comments on Ukraine. “No to war”, “No to violence against Ukraine”, and so on, not as extreme as “no to Putin”, but at least these are some free-thinking people. I don’t know what kind of relationship she has with her father now. She graduated college in the US, she lived there and I think she even has a passport,” this was the response of one of the Ruling Party’s leaders, the First Deputy Chairperson of the Parliament Gia Volski to the visit of Sergey Lavrov’s family to Georgia.
“It’s a touchy subject, Lavrov is the leader of the country that occupies 20% of our country, and this is his daughter, but in a way, I think Georgian pride comes under question if we start to hold people’s children responsible for their parent’s actions,” said Volski.
How did Lavrov’s sanctioned family members end up in Georgia?
“When we say we are not joining in on the sanctions against Russia, this includes personal sanctions. This is our very clear stance,” explained the Chairman of Georgian Dream, Irakli Kobakhidze.
According to him, the main guiding document for state services is the Georgian Law on Occupation, and if the law wasn’t violated, the customs service would have no reason not to allow specific persons into the country
“I am a human rights specialist - I studied this field in Germany back in the day, and I can tell you that sanctioning a family member grossly violates the basic standards of human rights, to say it mildly.”
On May 19, direct air travel was restored between Georgia and Russia. The relevant decree was issued by Russia’s Vladimir Putin on May 10. A visa policy for Georgian citizens, in effect since 2000, was also called off.
On May 11, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili applauded the removal of a flight ban and a visa policy, while President Salome Zurabishvili denounced it, labeling it as another Russian provocation, which poses a great challenge to the Georgian government. Zurabishvili called for the introduction of 3-month visas for Russian citizens. Since the start of the war in Ukraine by Russia and the declaration of military mobilization, the number of Russian citizens in Georgia has spiked.
The European Union calls on Georgia to join the sanctions against Russia, including in the aviation sector. In response, Garibashvili said that in order to comply with EU policies, Georgia must be its member state.