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Russia eases visa requirements for Georgians

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, December 24
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on December 22, saying that from the following day Georgians, could enjoy simplified visa-procedures with Russia.

The Russian official body highlighted the country decided to take the step as it “strived for positive relations with Georgia”.

“In the context of the ongoing process of normalisation of Russian-Georgian relations and to stimulate positive developments between the two countries, from December 23, 2015, citizens of Georgia will be issued business, work, education and humanitarian visas of any multiplicity, and private visas regardless of the presence of kinship between the host and invited on the actual invitation, issued in the prescribed manner by the Russian Federal Migration Service,” Russia Foreign Ministry stated.

The Ministry highlighted that the step “did not exclude removing of visas in the future between the two nations.”

Following the lead the Office stated the Russian side was “determined” to continue to take steps to alleviate the conditions of communication between the citizens of the two nations.

Prior to this, on December 17, just a day before the release of a positive European Commission report on visa-liberalization for Georgia, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said: "Yes, we think we are ready to cancel the visa regime with Georgia."

Responding to the statement, Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili declared that the statement and such a motion were “steps in the right direction.”

“Equally important are the interests of our many compatriots living in Russia - business people and other citizens – who have a stake in simplified visa procedures. For them, it is important to see that many obstacles as possible are being removed regarding travel between our two countries,” said Garibashvili.

After the release of the statement, Georgia’s Special Envoy to Russia, Zurab Abashidze, reiterated the PM’s words and stated that the simplification would benefit tens of thousands of Georgians who have to travel to Russia due to various private or business aims.

The opposition remains skeptical of Russia’s actions, saying that it might be a part of a wider plan Russia might enact in the future against Georgia.

Meanwhile, the leader of the non-parliamentary opposition Democratic Movement-United Georgia, Nino Burjanadze, stated that it was due to her actions and “merit” that Russia took such a step.

Burjanadze, who supports positive relations between Georgia and Russia, stated that she had been negotiating the issue with the Russians and advised the current state leadership not to speak with Putin as if he were a “small child”.

“Russia plans to introduce visa-free travel with Georgia and it is a negative approach when the current state Georgian leadership speaks with Putin as if he were a small child and praises him as he took the step.”

It should be highlighted that Georgia’s previous state leadership annulled visas for Russian citizens as early as 2011, when Russia has maintained the complicated procedures - until now - since 2000.

A visa regime between Georgia and Russia was introduced in December 2000, which in 2006 was followed by a mass deportation of Georgians from Russia.

Since September 2008, obtaining visas to Russia for Georgians was possible only through the invitation of very close relatives. Now there is no need to receive an invitation from a close relative. A Russian citizen and a business organization can easily invite Georgians to Russia and the aim of the visit will specify the time period one could spend in the Federation.