Authorities and opposition in Tbilisi on Russia's decision on visas and flights to Georgia
Opinions on Putin’s decrees
One topic is dominting Georgian discourse today: Russia’s decision to abolish its visa policy for Georgians and resume direct flights.
● The chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party Irakli Kobakhidze called the opposition’s opinion that the decision was a “gift” from Russia to the “pro-Russian” government “absurd”.
Irakli Kobakhidze: “The reality is that, thanks to the government’s pragmatic policies, this decision has been made for the benefit of our citizens. There are about one million Georgians living in Russia today and above all they benefit from this decision, because they have to travel to Georgia bypassing it and it costs three times as much.”
“This was a unilateral decision by Russia – and now they are reversing it.”
● Kobakhidze reiterated that the authorities do not intend to impose sanctions on Russia because “this would be a punishment for Georgia and its population”.
● Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili called Moscow’s decision “an unacceptable provocation”: “We must remember that we are talking about a country which has occupied our territories and we stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian friends.”
● Sergey Gavrilov, member of the Duma, who became famous in Georgia made a joyful statement: “In the future I hope to go to Georgia to visit the graves of my ancestors, who defended our country during the Great Patriotic War”. He was the organier of the 2019 International Orthodox Parliamentary Forum in Tbilisi and sat in the parliament speaker’s chair during the opening ceremony. This led to large-scale protests on 20 June with bout 100,000 people and mass dispersal.
Gavrilov also said he would soon be meeting his Georgian colleagues in Moscow for the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy.
● Former ombudsman Nino Lomjaria: “Don’t fly far with your Russian planes, we will enter the EU anyway”.
● United National Movement: “The government is running towards a sunken Russian ship”.
● Opposition activist Elene Khoshtariya warns Russian airlines: “You cannot fly in Georgia, there will be physical resistance”.
● One of the leaders of Georgian Dream, Archil Talakvadze: “Georgia deserved to be an EU candidate a year ago. Delaying this decision and Russia’s parallel activism led to the decisions we see today.”
● Mariam Kvrivishvili, Deputy Minister of Economy: “We would like to state very clearly our position: No airline will operte and no plane will come to Georgia that will be under sanctions.”
● Mamuka Hazaradze, Lelo party leader: “Russia made this decision at a very opportune time – to prevent Georgia from getting the EU candidate status. The decision on granting the status to Georgia should be made within a few months.”
● Khatia Dekanoidze, opposition MP: “Putin made it clear to the whole West that he considers the whole Georgian government a puppet.”
● US State Department: “Instead of restoring direct air links or abolishing the visa policy, the Georgian people would probably prefer that Putin withdraw the Russian army from 20 percent of Russian-occupied Georgian territory. This is from a written report given to Voice of America. Many Western countries, including the US, prohibit Russian planes from entering their airspace. If direct flights between Russia and Georgia are restored, we are concerned that Georgian airports could face the risk of sanctions for operating aircraft subject to export-import controls. All of Western society has distanced itself from this brutal regime; now is not the time to step up engagement with Russia.”