Zurab Abashidze, the Georgian Prime Minister’s Special Representative in Relations with Russia, on Wednesday confirmed he had a conversation with his Russian counterpart, former deputy foreign minister, Gregory Karasin, on traffic and road construction at the Russia-Georgia border last year.
In his remarks for the domestic media, Abashidze, who has been taking the position since 2013 when the Georgian Dream authorities restored trade and economic ties with Russia, confirmed the validity of the leaked audio recording on the Youtube channel, by an anonymous user, earlier the same day.
He claimed the situation at the Larsi border checkpoint with Russia was complicated following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February of the last year, and the phone call in June 2022 served the goal to ease the traffic-related tension that was also in the interests of Armenia.
Abashidze said the discussion also involved the construction of the Kvesheti-Kobi tunnel on the Georgian side of the border, the ₾1.2 billion ($451 mln) project, funded by the Asian Development Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The project was launched in 2021 and covers the construction of the 9-km-long tunnel, two-lane asphalt-concrete road, five bridges and other tunnels.
The official said the project, which is expected to be completed in 2024, was expected to ease the traffic movement on the complicated road section.
Russia and Georgia suspended diplomatic relations following the Russia-Georgia 2008 war.
With the initiative of the current Georgian Government, only the trade and economic ties were restored in 2013, a year after they took office.