President Salome Zuravicivili said lifting visa bans and resuming flights would make no sense as long as Russia occupied land in Georgia and Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has abolished visas for Georgian citizens and lifted a ban on direct flights to the South Caucasus countries in 2019, a move that comes amid unstable relations between the two countries. The Georgian president immediately condemned it as a “provocation”.
The measure, announced on the Russian government website, introduces a 90-day visa exemption period starting May 15.
Russia’s Ministry of Transport said in a statement that Russian Airlines will operate seven weekly flights between Moscow and Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
The report said Russia hopes to “facilitate terms of communication and contact between Russian and Georgian residents.”
Georgian President Salome Zuravicivili tweeted: “Another Russian provocation!”Resumption and cancellation of direct flights [the] As long as Russia continues to invade Ukraine and occupy our territory, a visa ban with Georgia is unacceptable. ”
Zuravicivili has repeatedly accused the ruling Georgian Dream Party of maintaining questionable ties with Moscow since Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili was elected with the backing of the Russian government in 2018.
Moscow and Tbilisi have the most strained relations among the former Soviet states, having had no formal diplomatic ties since 2008 when a brief war broke out over the Russian-backed secession of South Ossetia.
Much of Georgian society remains strongly anti-Russian, with thousands of people fleeing South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another Russian-backed separatist region, living as internal refugees.
In March, Georgia “abandoned efforts to pass legislation”foreign agenthas drafted the bill in the wake of mass protests, and critics lament that the bill was modeled after a Russian law they claim was used to undermine civil society. I’m thinking
Russia allows visa-free travel to most former Soviet countries, but in 2000 made it mandatory for Georgia to issue a visa, citing security risks.
Moscow also banned direct flights to Georgia in 2019 after anti-Russian protests.
Tbilisi grants Russians visa-free entry and employment rights for up to one year, making the country a haven for Russians. Russians fleeing conscription during the invasion of Ukraine.
Georgia’s refusal to impose sanctions on Russia has sparked friction with the European Union, despite a strong pro-Ukrainian stance among politicians and citizens.
Russia praised Tbilisi’s decision and said its position on the war was “balanced”.