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Humeyra Pamuk

Russians using Georgia to bypass sanctions, say Ukrainian lawmakers

A damaged tram is pictured at a shelled tram depot, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine June 15, 2022. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

Russian people and companies are using entities in Georgia to bypass Western sanctions, a group of Ukranian lawmakers said on Wednesday, urging the United States to take action over the accusations.

Speaking in Washington, David Arakhamia, Ukraine's chief negotiator with Russia, said the Ukranian delegation was set to have meetings at the U.S. Congress, State Department and the Treasury to raise awareness of the issue, among other topics.

"They (Russians) use heavily right now ... Georgian banks, Georgian financial system, Georgian companies and so on," he told reporters at a German Marshall Fund event.

"If you are a sanctioned Russian person, you go to the Internet, you open up a Georgian company, open up remotely the bank account and start processing," he said, pressing Washington to take action.

He did not provide further details or specific examples.

The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Georgian embassy declined to make an immediate comment on the accusations.

Western countries, led by the United States, have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia over its Feb. 24 invasion of neighboring Ukraine. Millions of people have fled Ukraine and thousands of civilians have been killed or injured.

But sanctions alone were not enough, said Arakhamia, who appealed for the Biden administration to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

"It will help a lot because if the country is recognised as a state sponsor of terrorism, there's going to be a lot of compliance issues worldwide ... It will help to work with sanctions," Arakhamia said.

The Washington Post reported in April that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked U.S. President Joe Biden to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, but Biden did not commit to specific actions.

Moscow denies targeting civilians and calls its invasion a "special military operation" to disarm Ukraine and rid it of what it calls anti-Russian nationalists. Ukraine and Western countries say it is an unprovoked war of aggression.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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