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Georgia must ensure security for Russian nationals - lower house speaker

It is impossible to develop tourism and, all the more so, stimulate it by cancelling visas, until Georgia gives this guarantee, Vyacheslav Volodin stressed
Russia’s State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS
Russia’s State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin
© Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS

MOSCOW, June 22. /TASS/. The Georgian authorities must provide guarantees that they will ensure security for Russian citizens in the country, Russia’s State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said on Saturday.

The speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament thus commented on a decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to suspend air communication with Georgia.

"On our part, we believe that all measures have to be taken to guarantee the security of Russian citizens and families going on vacation. It is impossible to develop tourism and, all the more so, stimulate it by cancelling visas, until Georgia gives this guarantee," Volodin said.

Such a decision could have already been taken, "if not for the actions by Georgian radicals and the inability of Georgia’s authorities to ensure law and order," the State Duma speaker said.

The Russian president’s decision to suspend the air communication "aims to protect Russian citizens from violent actions on the territory of Georgia," Volodin pointed out.

"The Georgian extremist forces are attempting to seize power. For the purpose of achieving this goal, they are exploiting the anti-Russian and Russophobic rhetoric, relying on radicals. Such actions are unacceptable and damaging the relations between our peoples," the State Duma speaker stressed.

Last year, "2 million Russian tourists" visited Georgia, which has a population of 3.7 million people, Volodin noted. "This brought over $3.5 billion or about 10% of Georgia’s GDP," he said.

"Those who are participating in provocations need to realize: they are causing damage not only to the relations of our peoples. In the first place, they are affecting the well-being of their citizens and business by these actions," Volodin said.

Russian President Putin signed a decree on Friday, which imposed a temporary ban on passenger flights with Georgia from July 8.

"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 carriage) 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 Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"The president will revise this decision only when the situation in Georgia is normalized and there is no slightest threat to the security of our citizens," he said. "The decision to suspend the 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 gathered near the building of the national parliament in downtown Tbilisi, demanding the resignation of the interior minister and the parliament’s speaker, and tried to storm it. 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 Sergei Gavrilov opened the session in the Georgian parliament. 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.