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Russia again warns its citizens against traveling to Georgia

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, November 15
The Russian Foreign Ministry has reiterated its appeal to Russian citizens to refrain from visiting Georgia, Georgian news agencies reported on November 13. According to GHN news agency, the Official Representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Andrei Nesterenko made the statement at a media briefing in Moscow.

“The Russian Foreign Ministry calls on Russian citizens to refrain from traveling to Georgia, because foreign citizens, who have been to Abkhazia or South Ossetia without the permission of Tbilisi, are either jailed or they have to pay fines,” GHN quoted the Russian official as saying. “All of this is done according to legislation about the so called Occupied Territories. This legislation, by the way has received many reproofs from the Venice Commission,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official representative said.

Nesterenko claimed that Tbilisi’s actions are aimed at “isolating Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the rest of the world.” In addition he accused the Georgian side of “persecuting” Russian citizens in Georgia. “Russians in today’s Georgia are victims of systematic assault, regardless of whether they have ever been to Abkhazia and South Ossetia or not,” Nesterenko said at the press briefing, according to GHN.

“It is very good if in Russia they realise that they will be punished for illegal travel to Abkhazia and so called South Ossetia,” Georgian Reintegration Minister, Temur Iakobashvili said, commenting on Nesterenko’s recent statement. “The Russian Foreign Ministry wants to warn its citizens, who have illegally been to Abkhazia and South Ossetia that they cannot enter the rest of the Georgian territory without being punished. It is doing the right thing in this case – this warning can help us avoid extra misunderstandings,” the Minister said, adding that entering Georgia is forbidden only for those who have been to Georgia’s occupied regions illegally. “For all other Russian citizens the doors to our country are open,” Iakobashvili noted.

Moscow first voiced its appeal for Russian citizens to refrain from visiting Georgia in September, accusing the Georgian side of “persecuting” Russian citizens. Officials in Tbilisi then stated that the Georgian legislation is “applied equally” to citizens of any country, including Georgia. “Georgia is an independent state with its own legislation and it does not matter who violates the law – a Georgian, a Chinese or Russian – legislative rules are applied equally to all of them,” the head of the Cabinet of the Abkhazian Government-in-Exile, Besik Silagadze told The Messenger.