Russia suspends Georgia flights

The move follows violent anti-Russian protests in the former Soviet republic

Photo: AP

President Vladimir Putin has temporarily banned Georgian airlines from flying to Russia after anti-Russian protests flared in the former Soviet republic, rising tensions between the two countries. They were ignited on Thursday by the appearance of a Russian MP in the Georgia's parliament. According to the Friday decree, the flight ban will go in effect from 8 July and it would be accompanied by a repatriation of Russian citizens temporarily living in Georgia.

"Starting on July 8, 2019, Russian airlines are temporarily prohibited from carrying out air transportation (including commercial) of citizens from the territory of the Russian Federation to the territory of Georgia," Russian news agency TASS announces, with the Kremlin adding that the suspension on Russian airlines flying to Georgia was to "ensure Russia's national security and protect Russian nationals from criminal and other unlawful activities."

Georgia was part of the Soviet Union until 1991, with tensions between the countries remaining high, 11 years after they fought a war over the region of South Ossetia. At the time then-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili sent troops to regain control over the self-proclaimed autonomous region. Russia responded by moving tanks and soldiers farther into Georgian territory.

The latest escalation now comes after Georgian people held on Thursday large-scale demonstrations by Georgian protestors against a visit by Russian MP Sergey Gavrilov to the Georgian parliament in the capital city Tblisi. Gavrilov then told the RIA-Novosti news agency that he believed Georgian protesters demanded his removal because of his alleged participation in the separatist conflict in Abkhazia in the early 1990s, which he denied. Georgia's president Salome Zourabichvili, however, has since the beginning of the protests accused Russia of meddling in its internal affairs and stirring anger.

"Russia is our enemy and occupier. Today, the Fifth Column orchestrated by Russia might become more dangerous than open aggression," she wrote on Facebook late Thursday.

In response, Moscow expressed on Friday "extreme disapproval" of the protests, which it labeled a "Russophobic provocation."

"One certainly can't help being extremely concerned over the fact that there were aggressive outpourings directed at Russian citizens," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call.

Similar articles