President: Georgia May Reconsider Visa Policy for Russians

While speaking with journalists in Chișinău after delivering a joint press conference with Moldovan President Maia Sandu, President Salome Zurabishvili addressed the issue of establishing visa requirements for Russians and did not rule out a review of the existing practice, “which is quite liberal in today’s conditions and which may be less acceptable in the conditions of this aggression…”

The President stated that while Russian citizens entering Georgia may not be a “threat, it’s definitely a challenge.”

In that context, she underscored that the main thing “is for the public to be certain that all control mechanisms are in place to prevent danger. And for that, I think more communication with and informing of, our society is necessary, about the fact that all possible threats are taken into account by the authorities and that all measures have been taken.”

She concluded, however, that ultimately, it is up to “the government to decide together with the public and by informing them [of the situation], that is the most important thing.”

Finance Minister Lasha Khutsishvili, however, retorted that “Today’s existing control mechanisms fully address the challenges that the country has, and therefore, at this stage, I personally do not see the need for [visa requirements].”

“If there comes a time when the risks in the country and the existing control mechanisms cannot provide the standard required as related to security, there can be a discussion on this, but today, there is no need for that,” he said.

Georgia abolished visa requirements for Russians in 2012, although the latter kept them in place for Georgian citizens. At first, Russian citizens had permission to enter Georgia without a visa and stay for 90 days. Today, however, that time period has been extended to 1 year.

Georgians have been particularly anxious about the number of Russian citizens entering the country since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine saw their influx to Georgia. At the time, the Shame Movement was one of the first to demand visa requirements, citing existing security threats in Georgia vis-à-vis Russia. In March, the Georgian Tourism Industry Alliance, which unites 29 associations, also called for visa requirements for Russians.

Such calls died down to an extent during the summer, but they re-emerged in August when a petition calling for visa requirements for Russian and Belarussian citizens started circulating online and garnered more than 19,000 signatures.

Calls for visa requirements, and even a total ban on Russians, materialized once again after President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization on 21 September led to long queues of people trying to enter Georgia through the Russo-Georgian Larsi border checkpoint. The news was met in Georgia with concern, mixed with confusion, about the number of entrants and the policy to adopt towards them.

To date, while the public, opposition parties, and civil society organizations have largely backed calls for visa requirements, the Georgian Dream party has opposed them in varying degrees, even going so far at one point as to say that such calls are  “xenophobic.” 

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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