If Russia cancelled visas for Georgia nationals, it would be a step in the right decision, Georgia’s special representative told his Russian colleague
Russia’s deputy foreign minister said EU’s move to grant Georgia a visa waiver was a positive development, adding that it would be still better if residents of [the disputed territories of] Abkhazia and South Ossetia could benefit from it too.
“I hope the European Union’s decision will prepare the ground for a smoother movement [across borders] for people living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Grigory Karasin told journalists ahead of his meeting with the Georgian government’s special representative Zurab Abashidze in Prague. “Currently, they have to go through very complicated procedures to obtain a European visa. With rare exceptions, they are not citizens of Georgia.”
In his turn, Zurab Abashidze probed a possibility of a visa-free travel to Russia for Georgia citizens. “Russia would do the right thing by further easing the visa regulations. Cancelling the visas altogether would be a step in the right decision,” he said.
Karasin responded that Russia was “not against a visa-free regime” with Georgia, however, he made it clear, the issue could not be effectively addressed at a time when the two countries’ diplomatic relations remained suspended.
- Russia imposed visa requirements on Georgia in 2001. The regulations did not affect Abkhazia and South Ossetia (and, for a short time in 2004, Georgia’s Black Sea coast region Ajara). Georgia responded by restricting entry for Russian nationals.
- In 2002, Russia started issuing Russian passports to residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Today, over 90 percent of the two territories’ populations are citizens of the Russian Federation.
- In 2008, Georgia severed its diplomatic contacts with Russia, in protest against Moscow’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.
- In 2010, Georgia granted up to 90 days of visa-free access to its territory to residents of Russia’s North Caucasus. Residents of other Russian regions were allowed to obtain visas upon entering Georgia.
- In February of 2012, Georgia lifted visa requirements for all citizens of the Russian Federation.
- In December of 2015, Russia eased its entry regulations to allow Georgia nationals to obtain entry visas of any type (except for a tourism visa) based on an invitation letter from any Russian citizen, therewith cancelling the previous arrangement where the invitation could only be extended by a close relative.
- At a press conference in December of 2016, president Vladimir Putin allowed the possibility of a visa waiver for Georgian citizens