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Russia uses economic levers vs Georgia as its MPs faced ‘attack’

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, June 24
Russian president Vladimir Putin has banned flights to Georgia after several Russian MPs, who came to Georgia to attend the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy last week, were forced to leave the Georgian parliament and the country amid harsh public protest, throwing them glasses and other items.

Putin ordered the “temporary suspension” of flights after July 8 and instructed the government to help Russian citizens, who are now in Georgia, return to their country.

Russian tour agencies will not be allowed to organise travels to Georgia.

Russian media reports that up to 80,000 individuals have already canceled their reservations in Georgia.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has “demanded” the protection of the safety of Russian journalists and citizens who are now in Georgia,

Based on rough calculations, Georgia will lose up to one billion USD, as, at an average, 25 percent of tourists coming to the country are Russians.

“The Georgian authorities will be utmost principled to protect the country’s sovereignty as well as the economic welfare of its citizens,” Irakli Chikovani, Strategic Communication Advisor to the Prime Minister of Georgia responded to Russia's reaction.

Founder of TBC Bank of Georgia Mamuka Khazardze, who is now one of the top figures of Anaklia Consortium to build Georgia’s strategically important deep-sea port, says that the consortium is ready to fund ten charter flights of the Georgian Airways from Kyiv, Ukraine to bring in tourists.

“With the step, we will contribute to the local tourism industry in the current situation,” Khazaradze writes.

Russia, as experts say, wants to punish Georgia and Moldova for their pro-European course, by banning the products from both countries back in 2006, strongly affecting the economies of the states.

Georgia, which suspended both political and economic ties with Russia after the Russia-Georgia 2008 war, initiated to restore only trade-economic relations with the country in 2012 when the current Georgian Dream leadership defeated the nine-year-rule of the United National Movement.

A former member of the United National Movement who served as Deputy Foreign Minister Sergi Kapanadze says that the step by Russia once again confirmed how the country uses its economic levers and how dangerous it is to become economically dependent on them.

He said that many Russian tourists will use other countries to arrive in Georgia.

Russian MP, Sergey Gavrilov from Communist party addressed the Orthodox Assembly from the Chairman's seat in the Parliament. The event sparked mass rallies in Tbilisi.

Gavrilov, who could hardly leave a hotel in Tbilisi surrounded by protesters, said that he was attacked “by radical opposition groups” who aim to hinder improving relations between Russia and Georgia.