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Putin says no need to impose sanctions on Tbilisi, cites respect for Georgian people

The president sees no need to demand that a criminal case be launched against the Georgian TV host who insulted him

YEKATERINBURG, July 9. /TASS/. Out of respect for the Georgian people, there is no need to impose sanctions on Tbilisi, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

"As for imposing sanctions against Georgia, I wouldn’t do it out of respect for the Georgian people," he noted. "For the sake of these people and for the sake of restoring full-fledged relations between Russia and Georgia, I wouldn’t do anything that would complicate the relations," the Russian leader emphasized. "One of them went and blurted something out, pretending to be someone, though no one had heard about him before and now everyone is talking about him so he has achieved his goal. He has been suspended from work for two months, he may go for a vacation and return to his activities later. However, there are people in Georgia who are protesting against all that," Putin added.

Commenting on the initiative put forward by Russian parliamentarians, Putin said that Georgian journalist Giorgi Gabunia, who insulted the Russian president earlier, "does not deserve the honor" of having a criminal case opened against him. "[People] like him do not deserve the honor of launching a criminal case against them," the Russian president said. "Let him continue broadcasting."

The incident occured during a Sunday show, when a host at Georgia’s Rustavi-2 TV channel used foul language to scold the Russian leadership for more than a minute. Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze, former Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze and ex-Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze strongly condemned those remarks. In addition, the TV host’s rant received backlash from a vast number of Georgian Facebook users. The TV host has been suspended from work for two months.

"In modern Georgia, the anti-Russian rallies are provoked by people who either do not know anything or know [something] and ignore it, in the end irreversibly damaging Georgia itself," the Russian leader stated.

He recalled that back in the day he was trying to convince Mikheil Saakashvili "to prevent any military actions against Abkhazia or South Ossetia under any circumstances." "I was saying the same to Americans, yes, under no circumstances. And what did they do? But no, they went there with war and the result is well-known now. Russia was just forced to recognize the independence of these two republics and protect the people of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia," the Russian leader said.

According to him, if the Georgian leadership wants to improve relations with these countries, they need to learn the lessons of history. He added that earlier the Georgian authorities had already "inflicted irreparable damage on its people." "The rest is details, the rants and the foul language," Putin said, noting that the restoration of ties should be prioritized, not the reactions to irritations.

The Russian leader recalled that Ossetia joined the Russian Empire in the 18th century, while Abkhazia became a part of it in 1810. "When the Russian Empire was crumbling after World War I, Georgia attempted to engulf Abkhazia. An independent Georgian state was formed that occupied Abkhazia in 1918, assisted by the German troops. And the occupants were behaving brutally," he said. "Actually, this is what is called genocide today," Putin added. "The Georgian authorities had better known all of that. We must not forget about it if the current Georgian authorities want to improve the relations with Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s people," the president advised.

Putin recalled the strained relations between Abkhazia and Georgia in the beginning of the last century. "At Stalin’s request, the Soviet People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs headed by Beria took a few steps regarding the Abkhaz people, very brutal, I don’t even want to draw examples now, for Georgia to absorb this territory and its people," the Russian leader said. According to the president, "this is a difficult legacy, which was not just discounted, it was ignored by one of the first Georgian presidents when he abolished any autonomy of both Adjara and Abkhazia." "This has all resulted in an explosion, in a fratricidal war," Putin pointed out.