13 Aug 2019 12:31

Flights to Georgia not to resume at least for another year - newspaper

MOSCOW. Aug 13 (Interfax) - Flights between Russia and Georgia will stay banned at least until the Georgian parliamentary election of October 2020, the newspaper Izvestia said on Tuesday, citing a diplomatic source.

"The situation in the country is not favorable for presence of Russian tourists. Russia has spelled out terms of flights resumption - Russophobic policy and rhetoric, including those of the Georgian authorities, must stop. There has been no progress, which means flights will not resume at least for a year. Most likely, that won't happen until the parliamentary election [due in October 2020]," the newspaper quoted the diplomat as saying.

"Anti-Russian rhetoric must stop on the state level," the diplomat said.

"Until that happens, we cannot advise Russian citizens to visit Georgia and, more importantly, we cannot be sure that our citizens will be safe in that country," he said.

According to Russian Union of Travel Industry (RUTI) Vice-President Yury Barzykin, Russian tourist arrivals in Georgia have declined 70%. Russians are arriving in Georgia by land, via third countries, the newspaper said.

There are no prerequisites for restoring flights between Russia and Georgia now or in the near future, Barzykin told Izvestia.

Russian-Georgian relations exacerbated after the June 20 protests in Tbilisi provoked by the opposition over the arrival of a Russian delegation to the meeting of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order on June 21 to suspend flights of Russian aircraft to Georgia on July 8, and to recommend that Russian tour operators and agents abstain from selling Georgia tours.

Following the insulting remarks on the Russian leadership made by Georgian television channel Rustavi 2 anchor Giorgi Gabunia on July 7, the State Duma made a statement, "On Possible Additional Economic Measures Regarding Anti-Russian Provocations in Georgia," and urged the national government to apply relevant measures to Tbilisi.

Yet Putin objected to the sanctions against Georgia proposed by the Russian parliament.

He said that the scandalous remarks made in his regard in Georgia derived from a policy based on the reluctance to remember the history of relations between Georgia, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, and the wish to undermine relations with Russia.