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The Daily Beat: 10 May

Russia lifted the visa regime for Georgian citizens and greenlighted the resumption of direct air flights with Georgia, Putin’s Decree No. 335 published by the Kremlin reads. From 15 May, Georgian citizens can enter and leave Russia without a visa for up to 90 days. Their visa-free travel will be logistically backed up by resumed direct flights – seven days a week. Following the presidential decrees, the Russian foreign ministry canceled its recommendation to refrain from traveling to Georgia. Direct air links between Russia and Georgia were unilaterally suspended by Moscow in 2019 following the anti-Russian protests in Tbilisi.

President Salome Zurabishvili slammed Russia’s decision, calling the government to convene the national security council and consider slapping a three-month visa requirement on Russian citizens. President described Russia’s recent move as provocative, completely unacceptable, and untimely for Georgia, possibly aiming to cover up some Russian failures in Ukraine. “We do not need gifts from Russia masked as concessions,” Zurabishvili said.

In stark contrast to the president, Foreign Minister Ilia Darchaishvili welcomed Russia’s decision, saying that from a humanitarian perspective, “it would be a “welcome move” for any responsible government.” Ilიa Darchiashvili justified the government’s benevolent stance by easing travel for “nearly a million Georgians living in Russia” – even though the Russian census indicates the number of ethnic Georgians at 114 thousand. Senior members of the ruling Georgian Dream party have consistently supported lifting the visa regime and resuming flights between Russia and Georgia.

Speaker of the Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, says that foreign money is used to finance opposition parties and revolutionary scenarios in the country, calling for an audit service to investigate the matter. In his comment for pro-government Imedi TV, Papuashvili claimed that foreign money is being invested in Georgian politics through fake organizations and schemes established by opposition parties such as “Droa,” “Girchi,” and “European Georgia,” repeatedly citing IRI as one of the sources of such foreign funding.

Today, the president’s administration released a statement criticizing Public Broadcaster for not providing live broadcasting of the Europe Day event opened by the address of the President of the European Council, Charles Michelle, held in front of President’s Palace on 9 May. The administration also reminded the Public Broadcaster of its legal obligation to raise awareness and support the country’s EU integration and pointed to its non-compliance with the law.  The Public Broadcaster aired the Europe Day event hosted by the President as one of its last TV spots at the end of the evening newscast.

In another statement, the president’s administration warned to veto the draft amendments to the election code, describing the proposed amendments as incompatible with Georgia’s statehood and the country’s European future. The ruling Georgian Dream party recently tabled a draft law that would shift the right to nominate the chair and professional members of the central electoral commission from the president to the parliament speaker.   

Chechen journalist Zhalavdi Geriyev, who has been tortured and spent three years in a Russian prison, was denied entry to Georgia without any explanation, OC media reported. Geriyev compared his treatment at Tbilisi international airport to any other regular Russian airport, accusing Georgian authorities of being “unprofessional” and “discriminatory.” Geriyev was previously denied entry and deported to Russia along with human rights activist Bekkhan Gelgoyev in 2014. However, he has since visited the country numerous times.


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