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TBILISI, February 29 (Itar-Tass) —— Georgia has introduced visa-free travel for Russians.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has signed an order that allows Russian citizens to enter the country without visa.
The Georgian authorities said that this decision is effective from Wednesday, February 29.
Dozens of Russians who arrived in Georgia by regular flights went through passport control without visas and had their passports stamped.
On Tuesday, February 28, Saakashvili suggested “abolishing visas for citizens of Russia on a unilateral basis”.
“Let every citizen of the Russian Federation know that he can come to Georgia without visa to do business, spend vacations on our resorts, visit relatives and friends, etc.,” he said.
The visa regime between Russia and Georgia was imposed in 2000 by the Russian government. Georgia followed suit. In 2004, Georgia unilaterally simplified visa requirements for Russian citizens and started issuing 1-3 moth visas to them upon arrival in Georgia.
In October 2010, Russian citizens who live in the North Caucasus were allowed to enter Georgia through the Kazbegi checkpoint and stay in the country for 90 days.
The new rules were applied to the residents of North Ossetia, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Adygeya, and other republics in the North Caucasus neighbouring on Georgia.
Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze said back then that the residents of these Russian republics would be able to enter Georgia without visas in about two weeks and stay in the country for 90 days.
She said the decision had been adopted because the residents of these republics were in an unequal position compared to other Russians who travel to Georgia by plane and get visas at the airports, whereas people living in these North Caucasian republics go to Georgia by car mainly through the Verkhny Lars (Russia) - Kazbegi (Georgia) checkpoint on the North Ossetian section of the border and have to obtain entry visas from the section of Georgia's interests at the Swiss Embassy in Moscow.
The Georgian authorities said visa-free travel rules for the residents of Russia's North Caucasian republics will facilitate human, economic and humanitarian contacts between people in Georgia and Russia.
Now Georgia has abolished visas for Russian citizens.