New flights between Moscow and Tbilisi opened
Russia announced it was eliminating visa requirements for Georgian citizens and lifting a ban on direct flights to the South Caucasus country. Reactions in Georgia were mixed, with some government officials welcoming the news while others denounced it, highlighting the complex and frequently tense relations between Moscow and Tbilisi.
On May 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed two decrees, one of which will allow citizens of Georgia to enter Russia without a visa beginning on May 15 unless they intend to work there for longer than 90 days. The second directive removed a ban Moscow unilaterally placed in 2019 following a wave of anti-Kremlin protests in Georgia on direct flights by Russian carriers to Georgia.
A few hours later, the Russian Transport Ministry announced that seven flights per week would be run between Moscow and Tbilisi by Russian airlines. In it, Russia was stated as wanting "to facilitate the conditions for communication and contacts."
Since Putin began his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the European Union, the United States, Canada, and other nations have prohibited Russian planes from using their airspace.
Within hours of that declaration, the Russian Transport Ministry announced that seven flights per week would be run by Russian carriers between Moscow and Tbilisi. According to the statement, Russia intended "to facilitate the conditions for communication and contacts."
Since Putin began his all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the European Union, the United States, Canada, and other nations have prohibited Russian airlines from using their airspace.
All multilateral resolutions denouncing Russian aggression in Ukraine received Georgia's support. Additionally, it has supplied humanitarian help to Ukraine and hosted hundreds of conflict refugees. At the same time, the 3.7 million-person nation on the Black Sea has become a popular refuge for Russians who are trying to escape the partial mobilization of Putin scheduled in September 2022 and the escalating general crackdown in Russia.
Georgia was urged to implement a number of reforms by the European Commission, which refused to give Georgia EU candidate status in June 2022. The Georgian administration gave up trying to approve a draft law regulating so-called foreign agents in March amid sizable mass protests.
On May 10, Salome Zurabishvili, the president of Georgia, wrote on Twitter that Putin's two decrees were "another provocation."
"Resuming direct flights and lifting the visa ban with Georgia is unacceptable so long as Russia continues its aggression against Ukraine and occupies our territory," she said.
Since being elected with Moscow's support in 2018, Zurabishvili, whose position is primarily ceremonial, has frequently accused the ruling Georgian Dream party of having ties to Moscow.
According to Teona Akubardia, deputy chairperson of the parliamentary committee on defense and security, the Kremlin action "increases the dangers" for Georgia. She echoed these worries.
The Georgian people will once again be put to the test as to how they will react to this unfriendly maneuver by Russia and how Russia will accomplish its objective of using more means of influence against Georgia, she continued.
After Georgian Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili praised Russia's decision, saying it "will simplify our citizens' daily living conditions and give them the chance to communicate and travel freely and easily," dozens of Georgians protested outside the Georgian Foreign Ministry building in Tbilisi on May 10.
The announcement, according to deputy economy minister Mariam Kvrivishvili, will vastly expand travel alternatives for the one million Georgians who reside in Russia.
The announcement from the Kremlin is a "very clear sign that Georgia is moving closer to Russia and distancing itself from the West," claimed Gigi Gigiadze, a former Georgian deputy foreign minister and ambassador to Denmark, in remarks to RFE/RL's Georgian Service. "This is very bad for Georgia," Gigiadze continued.
According to Georgian political expert Gela Vasadze, it also reeks of Moscow's desperation as it looks for partners in the face of rising international isolation over its on-going aggression on Ukraine.
"It is obvious that things have altered significantly since February 2022. According to Vasadze, Russia has turned into an economic pariah for the majority of wealthy nations. Current Time is a Russian-language network run by RFE/RL and VOA.
"Georgia has learned to live successfully without Russia for 22 years. Georgia is completely independent of Russia economically. Since 2007, Azerbaijan has been providing us with gas, and the majority of our commerce is with the EU. Regarding trade with Russia, this is only done with businesses connected to the ruling elite, according to Vasadze.
Concerns were raised at the time in both Brussels and Washington when reports surfaced earlier this year that the Georgian administration was considering whether to resume direct flights with Russia.
The United States is one of many Western nations that forbid Russian planes from flying over their airspace. Given that businesses at Georgian airports may be subject to sanctions if they provide services to aircraft subject to additional import and export controls, we would be concerned about the resumption of flights between Russia and Georgia, the U.S. The State Department informed Voice of America's Georgian Service on February 2.
"The time has not come to deepen engagement with Russia because the entire Western community has severed ties with this brutal regime."According to Peter Stano, an EU spokesman,
"We are aware of the recent discussions on the potential restoration of direct flights between Russia and Georgia," the Georgian publication Netgazeti reported on February 4.
"The European Union calls on Georgia to join the sanctions imposed by the European Union and other nations against Russia in the aviation sector and to be on the lookout for any potential attempts to circumvent the sanctions."
There are many thoughts about opening flights about Tbilisi and Moscow matter and people are bipolarized about it. It’s important to have right information, therefore we gonna have right political, economical and diplomatic opinion.