Yesterday, dozens of Georgians protested in front of Tbilisi Airport, with the arrival of a Russian passenger plane for the first time since 2019.
An AFP correspondent said that the plane, operated by Azimut Airlines, landed at Tbilisi Airport. A Georgian Airlines plane is expected to take off to Moscow on Saturday.
“Despite the opposition of the Georgian people, Russia has landed its unwelcome flight in Tbilisi,” Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili wrote on Twitter.
In detail, demonstrators carrying Georgian and Ukrainian flags gathered in front of the airport. Banners read, “You are not welcome.”
One of the demonstrators, Lana Gvangelia, 49, a human rights activist, said that the resumption of regular flights with Russia “means that our government is cooperating with the” Kremlin “. “This is a humiliating situation for the Georgians who stand by Ukraine and will not tolerate this situation,” she added.
It is noteworthy that Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a surprising move last week, lifted the flight ban, in a decision that was protested by hundreds of people in Georgia.
Russia announced the abolition of the visa regime with Georgia. By presidential decree, starting May 15, Georgian citizens can enter and stay in Russia without a visa for 90 days, with the exception of stays for professional reasons.
For his part, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili welcomed the resumption of flights, considering it a “positive” decision by Putin.
He hinted that only Russian companies and aircraft exempted from Western sanctions are entitled to operate in Georgia. He stressed that «the matter is only related to economic and trade relations». He added that last year Russia collected about $300 billion from trade with the European Union.
While the police deployed in the place arrested at least six demonstrators, according to Ilin Khashtaria, leader of the opposition “Drua” party, which called for demonstrations against this step. “We will not allow them to work in Georgia,” said activist Elaine Khashtaria, considering that the ruling “Georgian Dream” party is committing “treason.”
For his part, the political analyst, Gia Nodia, considered that “since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the behavior of the Georgian government was schizophrenia.” And he added, “They say they want to join Europe, at the same time their position towards Europe is controversial.” He rejected the statements condemning Russia, describing them as “an insult to the Georgian people.” He said that his government’s position on Russia was prepared through “strategic patience and pragmatic politics.”