Georgia is on alert: what will visa-free regime, opening of air links with Russia bring?
    Expert opinions on Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  13 May 2023 - 18:22

    Samir Ibrahimov

    Starting from May 15, Moscow cancels the visa regime for citizens of Georgia by the decree of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also issued another decree cancelling the ban on flights to Georgia.

    There is no answer to the question in the text of Putin's decree, for what reason the Kremlin has decided to cancel visas for citizens of Georgia.

    At the same time, the Russian Foreign Ministry cancelled the recommendation to refrain from trips to Georgia. The Russian Ministry of Transport announced that Russian airlines will operate seven direct weekly flights from Moscow to Tbilisi and back.

    The Georgian president called Putin's decisions a provocation and the abolition of the visa regime unacceptable in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Zurabishvili called for convening the Georgian Council to discuss the visa regime for Russians (it does not exist now). It is necessary to introduce three-month visas for those Russian citizens who come and stay in the country, she said.

    However, Salome Zurabishvili does not reflect the position of the Georgian government. Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, assessing Moscow's decision to abolish the visa regime and restore direct flights, said: "From the humanitarian point of view... any and all decisions that will facilitate life, movement and doing business for our citizens are certainly positive and welcome”.

    The prime minister said that there are 1 million ethnic Georgians living in Russia, who have family members, relatives and friends here, and "it is very important to facilitate their movement, their relatives' arrival, etc... This is a positive fact and a positive decision.

    According to him, in addition to the fact that the restoration of direct flights to Russia will remove "huge discomfort" and costs for citizens of Georgia in terms of travel, it is also an integral part of trade and economic relations, "one small component, a detail, not the main one”.

    The reports caused a storm of indignation in the opposition. "Russia's decision to cancel visas is total hypocrisy and part of the hybrid war it's waging," says Gigi Tsereteli, a leader of the European Georgia party, commenting on the Kremlin's decision. According to him, "Russia should not abolish visas, but withdraw its troops and put an end to its occupation of Georgia”.

    Levan Khabeishvili, chairman of the United National Movement (UNM), was no less harsh: "Putin actually declared Georgia a Russian province. Putin thanked Bidzina Ivanishvili for his help and announced a corresponding decision - he cancelled the visa regime and restored flights. It's the peak of cynicism when in parallel the Georgian people are oppressed every day, the occupation continues, the Russian army is on the territory of Georgia ...".

    So what does this move of Moscow mean? What caused such a decision at this point in time? What effect is it all designed to have? After all, the Kremlin is aware of the political split of opinions that has been keeping Georgian society in tension for several years already. Or does Moscow see behind these decisions some benefits for Russia, within it?

    Prominent foreign observers have agreed to answer these difficult questions for

    Sergei Zhavoronkov, co-chairman of the Russian political party Democratic Choice and board member of the Liberal Mission Foundation, believes that Putin's move is a step to support the current Georgian government, which is actually controlled by Bidzina Ivanishvili, just as the embargo on Georgian wine and mineral water was lifted soon after Saakashvili's defeat in the 2012 parliamentary elections.

    "Perhaps what is meant here is both the lifting of sanctions and the prospect of Georgia being used as a transit point for sanctioned imports to Russia. Of course, there are not a million Georgians in Russia, at best 100,000, given that Russia has been extremely reluctant to give them visas. But tourism is one of the pillars of Georgia's economy, and the possibility of direct flights is important.

    I am not a sympathizer of Ivanishvili, but the opposition behaves strangely. We should make a distinction between the interests of Putin, his entourage, the Russian budget and the interests of ordinary citizens of Georgia and Russia. The UNM is at the centre of the Georgian opposition, and they should remember that Saakashvili responded to Putin's sanctions by lifting visas for Russians and welcoming investment by Russian business in Georgia - simply because it is beneficial to Georgia itself.

    What is the harm of civilian air service, especially since it was not Georgia that cancelled it, but Putin, and now he actually admits his mistake? What is the harm from the Russian relocatees who come not to ask for benefits, but with money, have income outside of Georgia and at the same time these relocates are anti-Putin (they are not a ‘fifth column’)? Or is it the principle now that ‘if Yevtushenko is against collective farms, then I'm for it?’ Yes, Ivanishvili will obviously benefit politically from Putin's decision, but this is not a reason to engage in total denial," says Zhavoronkov.

    Kakha Gogolashvili, a political scientist and director of the Center for European Studies of the Rondeli Foundation (GFSIS), noted that in conditions when Moscow finds itself in economic, transport and political isolation, opening transport and deepening humanitarian and economic relations with Georgia (although small, but geopolitically significant country) is of interest for Russia.

    "Russia is interested in torpedoing Georgia's move to the EU and with this decision wants to create additional barriers, knowing that the EU and the US will not like this new impulse for rapprochement between Tbilisi and Moscow.

    The resumption of flights and a visa-free regime plays the role of soft power. Moscow is trying to tie as many Georgian citizens as possible to itself.

    The flights will also make it easier for Russian business to enter Georgia and strengthen the influence of Russian capital in our country," said the Rondeli Foundation representative.

    Shota Apkhaidze, political analyst and director of the Caucasus Center for Islamic Studies, assesses these innovations on Russia's part as positive.

    "This will have a positive impact on the economic and political future of Georgia because we have a long history with Russia. And despite the fact that it had a lot of bad things, it is still more positive. Quite a large Georgian diaspora lives in Russia. Let me point out that there are not 1 million ethnic Georgians living in Russia. Their maximum number is 255 thousand. Citizens of Georgia of other nationalities (Armenians, Azerbaijani) are in the order of 150 thousand. Of course, these people need a visa-free regime. On the other hand, there are a lot of Russians in Georgia now, too," says the expert.

    As for politics, everything should be decided through diplomacy, war will not bring anything good, says Apkhaidze.

    “The words of the President of Georgia are political speculations; she inadequately assesses the situation.

    And no matter how much the president and Western “partners” condemn these steps, calling them preparations for the occupation of Georgia, this is absolutely implausible. In fact, Tbilisi unilaterally abolished visas for Russian citizens a long time ago, so Russia should have done the same. After all, many Georgians are engaged in business, creativity, cultural activities, and trade in Russia. They are not involved in politics and just want normal relations with the neighbouring country, just like many Russians.

    The Georgian opposition is a destructive sect, constantly speculating on something. I wonder why Saakashvili lifted visa restrictions for Russian citizens and welcomed Russian investments into the country after 2008. There is a clear double standard here.

    I think that now the Kremlin needs good relations with Georgia because it has many enemies and very few allies. If the process of normalization of relations will continue, eventually we will be able to find some approaches and return our lost conflict territories. Putin, too, is probably thinking about somehow restoring relations with Georgia," Apkhaidze concluded.


    Subscribe to our Telegram channel

Read also

“External forces to interfere in Garabagh Armenians' reintegration into Azerbaijan” Expert opinions on Caliber.Az

23 September 2023 - 13:12

“Baku shows Central Asia how unsolvable issues can be resolved” Razuvayev and Akhmetov on Caliber.Az

22 September 2023 - 15:29

“There is no reason to suspect that Armenians won’t be able to live peacefully in Azerbaijan” Luke Coffey on Caliber.Az

21 September 2023 - 17:30

Baku's triumph over separatism and swift passportisation of Garabagh Armenians Experts share their opinions with Caliber.Az

21 September 2023 - 15:20

"Armenia will not go to war with Azerbaijan as it does not want a second capitulation" Russian expert Korotchenko shares his opinon on situation in Garabagh

20 September 2023 - 10:27

US and Germany continue hypocrisy by demonstrating biased attitude towards Azerbaijan Diplomat Fikrat Sadykhov talks to Caliber.Az

20 September 2023 - 00:19
Latest news

    Zelenskyy visit shows McCarthy walks ‘thin line’ on Ukraine aid

    24 September 2023 - 04:03

    Political class betrays Brexit by turning Britain into European country

    24 September 2023 - 03:05

    EU negotiator says trade relations with China ‘very imbalanced’

    24 September 2023 - 02:04

    Germany’s Baerbock joins chorus criticizing EU migration deal with Tunisia

    24 September 2023 - 01:03

    South Korea, US, Japan to take tough measures against Russia-North Korea arms deal

    24 September 2023 - 00:03

    The Economist: What Asia’s economic revolution means for the world

    23 September 2023 - 23:04

    NASA's first asteroid sample on track for parachute landing in Utah

    23 September 2023 - 22:00

    Ex-Wagner commander arrested in Norway for attempting return to Russia

    23 September 2023 - 21:03

    Germany, France eye new partners for next-gen tank in 2024

    23 September 2023 - 20:01

    Bob Menendez had built reputation as Senate’s most unethical

    Opinion by Thomas Anderson

    23 September 2023 - 19:00

    Azerbaijan sends 24 tonnes of petrol and 40 tonnes of diesel fuel to Garabagh Armenians

    23 September 2023 - 18:17

    President Ilham Aliyev receives European Union Special Representative for South Caucasus

    23 September 2023 - 18:05

    PM: Azerbaijan's strategic foreign exchange reserves hit $67 billion

    23 September 2023 - 18:00

    World Championship: Azerbaijani wrestler reaches semifinal

    23 September 2023 - 17:49

    South Africa plans to open consulate in Azerbaijan

    23 September 2023 - 17:38

    Armenian-left ammunition depot discovered in Kalbajar

    23 September 2023 - 17:24

    Azerbaijan's Azykh and Taglar caves inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List

    23 September 2023 - 17:18

    Russia does not directly attack Romania, president says

    23 September 2023 - 17:07

    US approves $500 million sale for Saudi Arabia’s combat vehicle upkeep

    23 September 2023 - 16:55

    Russia still 'occupies 20% of our territory': Georgian PM

    23 September 2023 - 16:43

    Taiwan moves closer to acquiring 160 Turkish-made Jackal drones


    23 September 2023 - 16:32

    FM: Once Garabagh Armenians get rid of criminal junta regime, wide opportunities will open up for them

    23 September 2023 - 16:29

    Azerbaijan sends fuel to Khankendi


    23 September 2023 - 16:24

    President Ilham Aliyev offers condolences to President of Italy

    23 September 2023 - 16:21

    OTG Secretary General: Garabagh is Azerbaijani land, part of Turkic world

    23 September 2023 - 16:12

    Russian-Hungarian cooperation in space technology will continue - FM

    23 September 2023 - 16:01

    Biden aides in talks with Vietnam for arms deal that could irk China

    23 September 2023 - 15:50

    Artur Aghajanov: Future of Garabagh is connected with Azerbaijan

    23 September 2023 - 15:39

    Armenian daily: Pashinyan ordered crackdown on protests

    23 September 2023 - 15:28

    Information campaign on Armenian mine terror held in London and Manchester


    23 September 2023 - 15:18

    Quake jolts Türkiye

    23 September 2023 - 15:17

    Cash, gold and a luxury car

    The eye-popping allegations against Bob Menendez

    23 September 2023 - 15:05

    Azerbaijan expects Armenians to fully honour obligations – roving ambassador

    23 September 2023 - 14:53

    Armenian tank shot down in Shusha by Albert Agharunov delivered to Baku


    23 September 2023 - 14:41

    Netanyahu says Israel is getting closer to "quantum leap" normalisation deal with Saudi Arabia

    23 September 2023 - 14:30

    Pakistani PM: Adding more permanent members to UNSC to undermine its authority

    23 September 2023 - 14:19

    Ukrainian forces have broken through in Verbove, top general says

    23 September 2023 - 14:08

    Romanian PM to visit Kyiv to finalise agreement about grain

    23 September 2023 - 13:57

    Azerbaijani activist informs UN about Armenia's environmental terrorism


    23 September 2023 - 13:46

    Armenain blogger says Ruben Vardanyan should surrender to Azerbaijani authorities

    23 September 2023 - 13:35

All news