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Putin temporarily suspends passenger air service with Georgia

The decree was signed "to ensure the national security of the Russian Federation" and protect citizens "from criminal and other unlawful actions"

MOSCOW, June 21. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree, which imposes a temporary ban on passenger flights with Georgia from July 8, the Kremlin press service reported.

"From July 8, 2019, Russian airlines are temporarily prohibited from carrying out air transportation (including commercial flights) of citizens from the territory of the Russian Federation to the territory of Georgia," the document says.

In addition, tour operators and travel agents are recommended "for the duration of the ban ... to refrain from selling a tourist product that includes transportation (including commercial one) of citizens from the territory of the Russian Federation to the territory of Georgia.

Putin instructed the government to take measures to repatriate Russian citizens temporarily staying in Georgia.

The decree was signed "in order to ensure the national security of the Russian Federation, to protect citizens of the Russian Federation from criminal and other unlawful actions and in accordance with federal law on Security dated December 28, 2010," the document says.

The ban will stay in place until that country’s authorities can guarantee security of Russian nationals, Russian president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said. 

"The president will revise this decision only when the situation in Georgia is normalized and there is not a slightest threat to security of our citizens," he said. "The decision to suspend air service is explained by extremist anti-Russian threats in Georgia that might be directed against out tourists. We cannot stay indifferent when anything threatens the lives of our tourists." 

He explained why the ban comes into force from July 8. "The president has imposed the ban from July 8 because it is the final day of the bulk of organized tours in that country and all our citizens will be able to return home," Peskov added.

Tbilisi developments

On June 20, several thousand protesters converged on the parliament in downtown Tbilisi, demanding the resignation of the interior minister and the parliament’s speaker, and tried to storm the building. In response, police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators. According to Georgian media, dozens were detained, 240 people suffered injuries.

The protests were sparked by an uproar over a Russian State Duma delegation’s participation in the 26th session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO). On Thursday morning, IAO President Gavrilov opened the session in the Georgian parliament building. Opposition lawmakers were outraged by the fact that Gavrilov addressed the event’s participants from the parliament speaker’s seat. In protest, they did not allow the IAO session to continue.

Later, a decision was taken to wrap up the session and for the Russian delegation to leave the country. Members of the ruling ‘Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia’ party said that they did not know that Gavrilov had been scheduled to open the event, claiming that the protocol office had made a mistake.

Secretary General of the ruling ‘Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia’ party and Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze announced on Friday that Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze had decided to resign.