Putin temporarily halts passenger flights from Russia to Georgia in reaction to Tbilisi protests

The protesters brandished placards reading "Stop the USSR" and "Don't shoot at us -- we are your children".

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Putin temporarily halts passenger flights from Russia to Georgia in reaction to Tbilisi protests
(File Photo: ANI)


Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a decree which temporarily prohibits Russian airlines from flying to Georgia just a day after protests broke out against a Russian delegation outside the Georgian Parliament.

"From July 8, 2019, Russian airlines are temporarily prohibited from carrying out air transportation (including commercial flights) of citizens from the territory of the Russian Federation to the territory of Georgia," a statement issued by Kremlin said, according to TASS.

Tour operators and travel agents have also been asked to "refrain from selling a tourist product that includes transportation (including commercial one) of citizens" from Russia to Georgia.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Russia has 'strongly recommended' Russian citizens against travelling to Georgia 'for their own personal safety'. The Kremlin also dubbed the protests against Russia in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, as a 'Russophobic provocation'.




Putin signed the document "in order to ensure the national security of the Russian Federation, to protect citizens of the Russian Federation from criminal and other unlawful actions and in accordance with federal law on Security dated December 28, 2010," as per the statement.

On Thursday, about 15,000 people had gathered in Tbilisi outside the Georgian Parliament to demonstrate against a Russian State Duma delegation's participation in the 26th session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO). They also expressed anger over the behind-the-scenes rule of Georgia's richest man Bidzina Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream party.

The demonstrations were centered primarily around an uproar over a Russian lawmaker giving an address to the parliament from the speaker's seat on Thursday -- a hugely controversial move in an ex-Soviet country that fought a war with Russia in 2008.

Tensions between the two countries remained high after the conflict over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The protesters brandished placards reading "Stop the USSR" and "Don't shoot at us -- we are your children".

Many tried to storm the building as well, leading to the police using tear gas, water cannon, and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters.

According to the health ministry, at least 160 demonstrators and 80 police officers were injured Thursday when the police tried to suppress the protests that have since then morphed into a broader movement against the authorities, mainly Ivanishvili who is thought to control power in the Western-backed state. More than 300 people were arrested.
IAO President and Russian State Duma member Sergey Gavrilov opened the session at the Georgian Parliament. The Opposition objected to the Russian lawmaker making his address while sitting in the parliament chairperson's chair and disrupted the session. They joined the protesters in demanding the resignations of Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia and Parliament Chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze.

More than 300 protesters were detained by the police while 240 people were injured in the clashes as per official data. The Georgian Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze has decided to step down from his post in the wake of the protests.

The Russian President also instructed the government to take measures to repatriate Russian nationals temporarily staying in Georgia, according to TASS.

The Russian president's press secretary and Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the ban will stay in place until Georgia can guarantee the security of Russian nationals. “What happened in Georgia... is nothing, but a Russophobic provocation,” adding that “aggressive manifestations against the Russian nationals” is of national concern.

"The President will revise this decision only when the situation in Georgia is normalised and there is not the slightest threat to the security of our citizens," he said.

"The decision to suspend air service is explained by extremist anti-Russian threats in Georgia that might be directed against our tourists. We cannot stay indifferent when anything threatens the lives of our tourists," he added.

"The president has imposed the ban from July 8 because it is the final day of the bulk of organized tours in that country and all our citizens will be able to return home," Peskov stated, explaining the reason behind the chosen date.


(With inputs from PTI and ANI)

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