NewsThe Daily Beat

The Daily Beat: 19 May

The first Russian aircraft landed in Tbilisi since Vladimir Putin lifted a direct-flight ban and let Georgians travel to Russia without visas. Hundreds of Georgians headed to the airport to protest what they see as the government’s brash detente with the international pariah. Apart from the regular passengers, the “Azimut Airlines” flight brought in some pro-Kremlin Georgian activists and journalists who claimed this to be their personal victory. They were escorted out of the airport under heavy police guard, and some demonstrators were detained. Later in the evening, demonstrators braved the rain in front of the Parliament building.  

TAV Georgia, the Turkish-owned operator of Tbilisi (and Batumi) airports, said it won’t handle Azimuth Airlines ground services, apparently fearing sanctions. Instead, these services will be taken on by Aero Handling Georgia, a company established in late April, on the eve of the resumption of Russia-Georgia flights. The media investigation found that Aero Handling Georgia is owned by David Kvaratskhelia, the son of a prominent pro-Kremlin old-timer and journalist Valery Kvaratskhelia, who was also aboard the first Moscow-Tbilisi flight.

President Salome Zurabishvili tweeted angrily: “Despite the opposition of the Georgian people, Russia has landed its unwelcome flight in Tbilisi.” Just a day before, PM Garibashvili suggested the government won’t pose an obstacle for the President to speak at the European Parliament session on May 31.

Russian flights are solely for comforting Russian citizens, which will come at a price, the outgoing US Ambassador Kelly Degnan warned while speaking with journalists after the opening of the Rondeli Security Conference in Tbilisi. She also dismissed the criticism of the ruling party chair, Irakli Kobakhidze, that the US was not issuing enough visas to Georgians, saying that “sometimes people want to think that they should have special treatment.”

Standing at the construction site for IDP housing, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili fielded some questions from journalists, commenting on the resumption of Russia-Georgia direct flights, the President’s visit to Brussels, and the ECHR’s recent decision on the Saakashvili case. Garibashvili reiterated his positive view on the resumed air link between the two countries, arguing it with economic, trade, and humanitarian interests, adding that the war in Ukraine does not mean that Georgia should not take care of its interests. Garibashvili also gloated at ECtHR decision not to oblige the government to send Mikheil Saakashvili for a medical transfer to Poland, he argued – misleadingly – that this clears the government from the accusations of torture and mistreatment of the former president.

Glamour Kink

Late in the evening, rather convincing rumors emerged that the daughter of Putin’s foreign affairs henchmen, Sergey Lavrov and her spouse attend a wedding at a hotel in the Georgian town of Kvareli. The Instagram photos that were circulating as proof by social media and the press were since removed. Georgians who protested today’s resumption of flights were not amused by the daughter and son-in-law of Lavrov – both are targeted by various western sanctions – gallivanting in the Georgian countryside.

Back to top button