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Georgian Dream members discuss Visa policy changes with Russia initiative from Lelo, call it 'irrational' and 'xenophobic'

By Liza Mchedlidze
Friday, August 5, 2022
Chairman of the Georgian Dream Irakli Kobakhidze told the media that imposing a visa regime for Russian citizens and changing the existing policy is irrational.

According to Kobakhidze, the visa policy that is in effect in Georgia today with respect to Russia was implemented under the previous government after the August 2008 war.

"Changing the policy that was implemented after the war, because of the war, is simply irrational. The previous government, after our war, the Russia-Georgia war, implemented the visa regime that is still in effect today," he said.

Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of the Georgian Dream, considers the imposition of a visa regime for Russian citizens as "xenophobia" and calls this demand of the opposition a "shameful" campaign.

"I would like to remind you that the previous government introduced a visa-free regime for Russian citizens after the August war, and today the same people call us to impose restrictions. Xenophobia is common and of course, we will have a strict response to this xenophobia," says Kobakhidze.

Responding to Lelo's initiative that due to the arrival of a large number of Russian citizens in Georgia, it is necessary to introduce a visa regime, Kobakhidze called it a 'xenophobic campaign':

"This is a deliberate xenophobic campaign that is absolutely disgraceful. It does not fit into any norms. If someone wants to be European, they cannot prove it with xenophobia"

"Tourism is one of the main directions of our economy, and a lot of "fakes" are spreading in this regard as well. In particular, one of the TV stations announced that the number of Russian tourists in Georgia today is 10% of the population of Georgia, which is a complete lie. If we actually take the data, it won't even be 1%. In total, 242,000 people entered and left. This is a xenophobic campaign based entirely on lies."

More than 10,000 people signed Lelo's petition in a few hours demanding changes of Visa policy with Russia.

Mamuka Mdinaradze also responded to Lelo's initiative, saying that they 'themselves', meaning the opposition canceled the Visa regime in 2012 after the war:

"The narrative about the black hole and sanctions evasion is a lie, plain and simple. We have to make excuses for things that do not exist in nature. They themselves canceled visas and now they are talking about the problem of Russian tourists,

According to Mdinaradze, the statement that an unprecedented number of Russian tourists have entered the country is not true, and in fact, their number is less than in previous years.

"This is part of the fabricated campaign of the people who in March 2012, a few years after the August war, imposed a visa-free regime on Russian citizens. This campaign against tourists is planned by those who imposed the visa-free regime. If they raise this issue, it should not be discussed, if there is a similar need, a similar initiative will appear anyway. Yesterday it was said that an unprecedented number of Russian tourists have arrived. According to 'Transparency International' research itself, in 2019, 1.5 million Russian tourists came to Georgia throughout the year, and in 2022, the number is 247,000. On the contrary, the number is less, if we compare it to the years before the pandemic" said Mamuka Mdinaradze.