As of Wednesday 25th May 2022, ExpatHub will require extensive KYC from prospective Russian & Belarussian clients.

Our previous policy of a 50% surcharge in the form of a mandatory charity donation to Ukraine humanitarian aid, from 11th April, has been discontinued, though we encourage all clients to consider donating. The money collected during this program has been donated, and ExpatHub LLC will also donate all net profit from clients who paid the surcharge for those services, to the same charity.

A full release on our position is below, the basic summary of the changes and reasoning is here:

  • It has become very clear that the unprovoked war in Ukraine, initiated by Russia, under the support of Belarus, is not just an illegal war, but is a humanitarian crisis involving ongoing and multiple war crimes, in breach of the Geneva convention which Russia is a part of. At this point, citizens of Russia/Belarus who are not willing to stand against their governments, are indirectly choosing to stand for it, and walking away from that responsibility is morally wrong on every level. 
  • In short, this is no longer just Putin’s war, it is Russia’s war. The Russian populace has stood by Putin for years, through multiple unjust wars, and there is a point where social uprising and justice must be brought about by the people, as has happened throughout history. The time to pretend it’s not their problem is over. It is everyone’s problem.
  • For this reason, the people fleeing Russia & Belarus to Georgia should take responsibility for their respective country’s actions.
  • The initiative of extensive KYC was an alternative to us simply refusing assistance to Russians and Belarussians, as we also understand that some of those fleeing may have done so in order to be able to act against their own country from the outside. We’d rather help those wanting to make a difference, than to indiscriminately block everyone from doing so.
  • We will assist Ukrainian citizens who were displaced by the war and arrived in Georgia, by providing services free of charge under any circumstances we can. Please note at this time due to the languages our staff speak we can only assist English speaking clients and within the capacity of the staffing we have.

ExpatHub stands with Ukraine through this unprecedented time and our hearts go out to those who are suffering unnecessarily because of an unprovoked, illegal war.

A full release from our Managing Partner, Janar Kokk (April 4th, 2022):

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, I’ve taken the pragmatic view that Russian citizens who have decided to leave Russia and stop supporting the regime with their tax money and brainpower should not be persecuted for what Putin has done, and that it’s not right of the private sector to “take matters into their own hands” and refuse Russian citizens service, even in countries like Georgia, where the government’s appetite towards taking any sort of action other than “condemnation” is disgustingly weak at best.

In light of the recent atrocities surfacing in Bucha and Irpin – reports of civilians being executed through a single shot in the back of their head if they’re lucky, or in other cases raped and then hung – of households being stolen empty of not only valuables but clothing and food, to then sell it at the other side of the border for profit – my position is quickly and radically changing.

This is no longer “Putin’s war”. It’s every Russian’s war.

War crimes like the ones surfacing now are no longer on Putin. Nor are they on the despicable human beings committing them. They’re on EVERY SINGLE RUSSIAN CITIZEN who fails to decisively act towards making these sorts of atrocities impossible. Saying “this is Putin’s war, not mine” is akin to burying one’s head in the sand like an ostrich. By doing nothing (and escaping to places like Georgia or UAE is pretty damn close to nothing), one isn’t too far from downright approving of what is happening. 

Words don’t count for much any longer. We can say “I don’t agree” all we want, but without action towards the contrary, nothing will change.

The population of Russia must understand that it is THEIR responsibility to make the mere possibility of something like this happening in the 21st century stop. 

The lucky few who have access to unbiased information must understand that it is THEIR responsibility to do all in their power to inform their fellow countrymen and bring them out of their blissful ignorance. Distancing yourself and acting as if you have nothing to do with it signals approval. Saying “it’s on the government, not on the people” is weak and irresponsible. People saying these things is exactly how Putin and his obedient rapists, thieves, and mercenaries can carry on doing what they’re doing.

I have a full appreciation that it’s not easy for an average Russian citizen – or even one with means well above the average – to do anything meaningful against the regime. But guess what – it’s also not easy for mothers to watch their daughters getting raped and killed. 

How many of the people who have escaped from Russia to Georgia over the last 39 days can honestly say that they’ve acted in the interest of Ukraine or against those of the Russian regime? How many of them have as much as donated $100 towards helping Ukrainians suffering from the war? How many have cast a vote against Putin and ensured their families and friends do the same? Some have, and I congratulate them warmly, but my guess is the percentage isn’t large at all.

I continue to opine that xenophobia has no place in business or anywhere else, and that these Russian citizens who are genuinely doing what they can to bring about a change of regime should be helped, rather than discriminated against. But actions speak louder than words, and the latter come cheap.

Later this week, I will be proposing to my Board of Directors that each service purchased by a Russian citizen relocating to Georgia (or on their behalf) be subject to a 50% surcharge, which we would promptly remit to an anti-war/pro-Ukraine charity of our client’s choice. I will propose that we further top these payments up from our own profit margin, given that I don’t see it being ethical to profit from the ongoing situation – a viewpoint that I wish our dear lawmakers in Georgia would come to share.

Our prices are not high. Even with a 50% markup, we will not be the most expensive service provider in Georgia. As such, I see no reason for any of these hundreds of Russian citizens who have recently contacted us – unanimously denouncing “Putin’s war” – to put their money where their mouths are and agree with the initiative. We would give them all a direct way to contribute to the ending of the conflict, and to help restore what their government and fellow citizens have destroyed.

To anyone who still feels indifferent about all this – please watch the photo and video footage from Bucha and Irpin. If you continue to feel indifferent, you’re simply not human.

With what’s currently going on at our doorstep, not a single person can remain “on the sidelines”. Those who do are firmly part of the problem themselves.

Слава Україні!

Additional comments from our Managing Partner Tom Williams:

I echo and agree with all of the above comments from Janar Kokk. In addition, I would say that history has shown that an unjust government must be replaced, and often is, by its own people. In the 21st century, developed nations have come to rely on international conventions and cooperation to put the tragic wars of the past behind us. It is not only embarrassing, but of great shame on the Russian people, that your government believed the actions they have initiated to be acceptable- either in war or just within the moral landscape of the modern world in general.

Not only do you continue to destroy the reputation of your country, of your people, but the history books will remember your leaders as the equivalent of Hitler and his sycophants. You are the 21st century equivalent, and nothing can change that now. But you can stand up and stop what is happening from going any further. You can ensure that your government and your military leaders are brought to justice. You can show that the Russian people stand with Ukraine, even if your government of war criminals does not. And you can contribute to redeeming Russia’s reputation.

You CAN effect change in Russia, even if it will be both hard and dangerous, as the populations of so many countries have done throughout history. If you exited Russia in order to fight the government from the outside, please do it. Communicate with everyone you can about the real situation in Ukraine. Explain that the other side of the story is waiting just at the end of a VPN. Russians can get the information inside Russia. It’s time to contribute to Ukraine and publicly announce your intentions and position so that other Russians have the courage to stand together, rather than hide in fear.

This is YOUR WAR, and expecting NATO to be the only ones militarily supporting Ukraine when doing so is risking escalation to nuclear war, is an embarrassment to any Russian people who know what is really happening in Ukraine. If the Russian people stood up to Putin, alongside your armies who are currently being used and abused, this conflict, and the current regime, could end very soon.

Myself and ExpatHub stand with Ukraine, along with anyone who will also stand up with us against the war, no matter where you come from.

How You Can Support Ukraine

Organized by the Tbilisi City Hall, a large-scale aid collection point has been established on 5 Akaki Beliashvili Street (Dighomi) since March 7th. Since then, several tons of aid packages have been sent to Ukraine, and the collection is still ongoing. This effort is the result of direct cooperation between the Georgian and Ukrainian governments to ensure that all of the aid is distributed to those who need it most. They are requesting non-perishable goods only.

Lokal Tbilisi has also been coordinating a collection on a smaller scale in Vake, 42 Vasil Petriashvili Street. For a complete list of collection points around Georgia and other ways to support Ukraine, visit here.

ExpatHub will be donating client contributions as well as the relevant net profit from the services that are outlined above to Red Cross Georgia’s Ukraine donation drive.

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Tom Williams
Tom Williams

Managing Partner @ ExpatHub.GE | Expert on Tbilisi/Georgia re-location, visas/residency, business, food, wine and more. Previously from the UK, now a full time expat in Tbilisi.