President of Georgia opposes resumption of flights with Russia
Zurabishvili contra flights with Russia
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has denounced the government’s position on restoring direct flights to Russia.
“At a time when all our partner countries, in word or deed, express maximum solidarity with the selfless struggle of Ukraine, for me and, I am sure, for the majority of society, the position of the government and the ruling party is incomprehensible,” Zurabishvili wrote on Facebook on January 20.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed hope for a speedy restoration of direct flights with Georgia and said that “Georgia’s 10% economic growth is largely due to ties with Russia.”
“Restoration of direct air transport with Russia would be welcomed,” Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, said in response.
Zurabishivili writes that she cannot agree with the argument being used to support the resumption of direct air service — that it would ease the problems of Georgians living in Russia.
“We must remember the old tricks of Russia, we must understand that the Kremlin deliberately raises such issues, hoping to create a split between Georgia and our Western partners.”
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“Instead of [discussing the resumption of flights with Russia], the government needs to seriously look into the influx of Russian citizens into Georgia and all the social and political implications. I have repeatedly called for this. Society must feel that its national interests and security are taken into account and protected.
Regulations should be adopted in Georgia on the right to work, on registering a business, on acquiring property, or on opening Russian-language schools.
And instead of resuming flights, the government should take care of the country’s reputation, respond categorically and with evidence to accusations that Russia is circumventing sanctions through Georgia.
All this requires a serious government approach,” Zurabishvili writes.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov praised the Georgian government, saying the country was “resisting pressure from the West.”
“We see that Georgia, like almost all other countries is under pressure from the West, which requires them to join the sanctions against Russia. And the fact that a small country and its government have the courage to declare that they will be guided by their own interests and the interests of their own economy deserves respect,” Lavrov said.
He also said that “Western participants in the so-called Geneva talks between Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia – that is, the European Union, the UN, the OSCE and the United States – are trying to make this dialogue format a hostage to what is happening around Ukraine.”
Lavrov said that Georgia’s Western partners “are guided by political grievances and whims.”
This is not the first time that high-ranking officials of the Russian Federation have praised the Georgian authorities for their attitude towards Ukraine and the West.
On March 25 of last year, Grigory Karasin, chairman of the Russian Council Committee on International Affairs, praised the Georgian government for its position on the Ukrainian issue. Karasin called Georgia’s reaction to the anti-Russian sanctions of the West “balanced” and stressed that “this fact will not go unnoticed” in Russia.
Karasin analyzed the history of Russian-Georgian relations. He said that since 2012, after the ruling Georgian Dream party came to power, Russia has become Georgia’s second most important trading partner. According to him, all restrictions on Georgian goods were lifted and Georgia’s exports to Russia increased fourteen times.
A few months ago the Russian government published a list of unfriendly countries which does not include Georgia. According to the Kremlin, Russian individuals and companies will be able to repay their debts to creditors who are “unfriendly states” in Russian rubles.