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The News in Brief

Wednesday, February 24
Abkhazia to impose so-called visa-free travel with Karabakh and Transnistria

Abkhazia will impose so-called visa-free travel with Karabakh and Transnistria, according to Abkhazia's Deputy Foreign Minister Kan Tania.

As declared by the puppet regime, citizens of those countries that have recognized Abkhazia’s independence will be allowed to visit in Abkhazia without a visa from April 1.

According to Kan Tania, a new checkpoint will be opened in order to issue visas by simplified rule. (IPN)

Burjanadze Meets Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin met with the leader of Georgia’s Democratic Movement oposition party, Nino Burjanadze, in Moscow on February 19.

“Various aspects of Russian-Georgian relations were discussed with focus place on the need for their normalization,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement on its website.

It was Burjanadze’s third visit to Russia over the past seven months. She met Karasin, as well as Russia’s State Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin in Moscow in July 2015, and then speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, in St. Petersburg in September.

She said after those previous visits that her contacts with the Russian leadership aimed at “positively contributing to Russian-Georgian relations and at preparing the ground for concrete steps to resolve the problems after [her party] comes into power.”

In late December, when Russia eased visa requirements for the Georgian citizens, Burjanadze claimed credit by saying: “There are often questions about why I visit Russia – that’s one of the results of those talks that I have been carrying out, constantly raising the issue of the simplification of visa rules.” (

Two American NGO workers fined in Russia for violating visa conditions

Last week, Russia detained two American members of non-governmental organizations (NGO) for violating visa rules and holding ‘non-touristic meetings.’

DF Watch spoke to Temur Kobalia, the director of the Georgian-Russian Forum NGO, who was with the Americans as they were detained at a restaurant.

He said that Sharon Tennison, the president and CEO of the Center for Civil Initiatives (CCI), and her colleague Theodore McIntyre, came to Volgograd to meet people and find out the possibilities for reviving projects that they carried out there a few years ago, or if there was the chance to start new projects.

Kobalia wanted to introduce them to local human rights activists, and over the following days they planned to attend a human rights summit in the same city.

While they were at the restaurant, Federal Emigration Service officers arrived and read them a statement that said they had violated an administrative law.

The offence was that they had a tourist visa, but in fact were working.

The two appeared in court and pleaded guilty in order to avoid a drawn out trial. They were fined 2,000 Russian rubles each (USD 25), and afterward left Russia.

Temur explains that Russian legislation doesn’t allow visitors who arrive on a tourist visa to work, but he thinks Sharon and Theodore didn’t violate the law since they didn’t receive any money and didn’t carry out any official activities in Russia.

Kobalia says he hasn’t heard of any similar case in the past and that people were surprised.

“You know, it wasn’t nice. Newspapers wrote about how agents of the US State Department had been arrested in Volgograd. It is like in North Korea. I mean, what was the point? They are civilized people who came with a visa and all the necessary documentation. Hundreds of people arrive from Asia with no documents at all.”

He explained that Sharon and Theodore don’t want to talk to journalists right now. They are not planning to return to Russia in the near future.

A few months ago, DF Watch discussed with Kobalia the issue of foreign organizations and funds, as well as his own organization, which was listed as one being run by foreign agents. Organizations that are on the list, like Open Society, are still unable to resume work in Russia, Kobalia explained. (DF watch)