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Putin Says Direct Flights with Georgia was his Decision, Georgian Leadership has Repeatedly Raised this Issue

Russian President Vladimir Putin has revealed that the opening of direct flights to Georgia was his personal idea and decision. He admitted this in the course of his meeting with the forum “Delovaya Rossiya” (Business Russia). A forum participant thanked Putin for the fact that direct flights to Georgia have finally become possible, and the Russian President responded by describing how this initiative was born. He also expressed his dismay at the negative reactions regarding the decision that he has heard from Georgia.

A self-described broker with Georgian surname and “the business Ambassador of Georgia” within Business Russia thanked Russian president for resuming direct flights and for lifting the visa free regime between Georgia and Russia.

In response, Putin spoke at length about how the resumption of flights and annulment of visa regime came about.

He in particular said: “I always try, as it were, to distribute everything positive that we have going on among my colleagues, but in this case, it was really my decision and my suggestion. And it was due to a number of circumstances, including the holiday season. I wanted to support people who want to build normal relations with Russia in Georgia itself, our business and simply our citizens who love Georgia and want to come there, to relax and get in touch with Georgian nature, culture, cuisine and so on.”

He then said that the reaction that followed was a complete surprise for him: “I thought everyone would say, thank you, isn’t that swell. There’s been some sort of completely incomprehensible uproar over this issue, very strange, frankly, unexpected.”

He then noted: “When I am looking at this from outside I think they are completely nuts. I do not understand what is going on there.”

He then said that it seemed to him that “the Georgian leadership has repeatedly raised questions about the abolition of visas and resumption of air travel, and we have made this step forward” noting that  “what happens inside the country is not our business, it is up to people there to decide which way Georgia should go, how it should develop, etc.” He stressed: “We are ready to go our part of the way, we are making steps towards it and will continue depending on how our partners react to it”. He added that he never had any doubts that “the decision would benefit business”, and that he was “very pleased to hear this confirmed.”

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has reacted to Putin’s statement today when asked a question by a journalist regarding the Putin’s allegation that the Georgian government had raised the issue of direct flights. Garibashvili said that if anyone requested the restoration of flights and trade, it was Saakashvili and his government. He noted that the current Georgian government has said that it does not have a political dialogue with Russia, only dialogue on economic and trade issues. He said that unlike Saakashvili’s government, the current one has made no such attempts, noting that he knows that representatives of the diaspora have been raising this issue for years, as have business groups and others. “My feeling is that the Russian president was probably referring to the Saakashvili government,” Garibashvili said.

Prime Minister also said: “We said that flights are part of economic-trade relations, it has nothing to do with politics or anything, and we said that of course our one-million- strong diaspora and their relatives, their families, need freedom of movement.”

In line with the PM’s statement the Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili said today that the Georgian side has not taken part in the process: “As far as flights are concerned, we have repeatedly said that we have made no effort in this process, neither in terms of lifting visa restrictions nor in terms of lifting restrictions on flights, we have said this many times, it has been commented on at all levels.”

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


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