Vladimir Putin has signed decrees canceling the visa requirement for Georgian citizens to travel to Russia and removing the ban on flights from Russia to Georgia that was imposed in June 2019.
It is widely believed that this action is the Kremlin’s way of rewarding the Georgian government for its moderate position on the Ukraine conflict and its “anti-Western propaganda.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, among others, has frequently praised Georgian government members in recent months.
Beginning on May 15, 2023, Georgian nationals will no longer need a visa to enter Russia for up to 90 days every 180 days. 2012 saw the unilateral lifting of Georgia’s visa requirements for Russian nationals.
According to Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, notwithstanding the lack of official ties, Russia is committed to fostering dialogue between its citizens and those of Georgia.
The restriction on direct flights to Georgia has also been lifted by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian Ministry of Transport states that there will be seven weekly direct flights from Moscow to Tbilisi and vice versa.
Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the television network RT and a Kremlin propagandist, applauded the action by pointing out Georgia’s opposition to Western sanctions and the formation of a “second front” against Russia.
Ilia Darchiashvili, the minister of foreign affairs for Georgia, praised the move to reinstate direct flights and emphasized its humanitarian value for Georgians having relatives in Russia.
Mariam Kvrivishvili, the deputy minister of economy, stated that Georgia would uphold the international sanctions placed on Russia and would not admit sanctioned aircraft.
Salome Zurabishvili, the president of Georgia and a vocal opponent of the current government, criticized the Kremlin’s action as provocative and unacceptable as long as Russia continues to annex territory from Georgia and engage in aggressive behavior against Ukraine. She demanded that the Security Council of the nation be called, claiming that Moscow’s action is inimical to Georgia’s interests and dignity.
“Another Russian provocation! Resuming direct flights and lifting visa ban with Georgia is unacceptable as long as Russia continues its aggression on Ukraine and occupies our territory!” she wrote on Twitter.