Moscow [Russia]: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a decree which temporarily prohibits Russian airlines from flying to Georgia just a day after protests broke out against a Russian delegation outside the Georgian Parliament.
“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,” a statement issued by Kremlin said, according to TASS.
Tour operators and travel agents have also been asked to “refrain from selling a tourist product that includes transportation (including commercial one) of citizens” from Russia to Georgia.
Putin signed the document “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,” as per the statement.
On Thursday, thousands of protesters gathered outside the Georgian Parliament to demonstrate against a Russian State Duma delegation’s participation in the 26th session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO). Many tried to storm the building as well, leading to the police using tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters.
IAO President and Russian State Duma member Sergey Gavrilov opened the session at the Georgian Parliament. The Opposition objected to the Russian lawmaker making his address while sitting in the parliament chairperson’s chair and disrupted the session. They joined the protesters in demanding the resignations of Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia and Parliament Chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze.
More than 300 protesters were detained by the police while 240 people were injured in the clashes as per official data. The Georgian Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze has decided to step down from his post in the wake of the protests.
The Russian President also instructed the government to take measures to repatriate Russian nationals temporarily staying in Georgia, according to TASS.
The Russian president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that the ban will stay in place until Georgia can guarantee the security of Russian nationals.
“The president will revise this decision only when the situation in Georgia is normalised and there is not the slightest threat to the 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 our tourists. We cannot stay indifferent when anything threatens the lives of our tourists,” he added.
“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 stated, explaining the reason behind the chosen date.