Vladimir Putin bans flights to Georgia Putin. Russian Vladimir Putin on Friday banned Russian airlines from flying to Georgia, where thousands of people were demonstrating for the second consecutive night against the power deemed pro-Russian, in the aftermath of violent clashes due to the intervention of a Russian deputy in Parliament.
“From July 8, 2019, Russian airlines have temporarily banned flights from the territory of the Russian Federation to the territory of Georgia,” said the decree published on the site of the Kremlin.
In Tbilisi on Friday, at least 15,000 people responded to the opposition’s appeal and found themselves in front of the Georgian parliament, according to an AFP journalist.
Some were blindfolded in support of protesters who had been frightened the day before in clashes with the police and most were demanding an end to the influence of the oligarch Bidzina Ivanichvili, founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party and often described as real strong man of the country.
Speaking to the crowd, Grigol Vachadzé, leader of the main opposition party, the United National Movement (MNU) created by former exiled president Mikheil Saakashvili, called for early parliamentary elections, electoral reform and resignation from the Minister of the Interior.
The unrest began on Thursday, when around 10,000 people gathered in front of the parliament to protest the intervention of a Russian deputy, Sergei Gavrilov, from the seat of the speaker of the assembly.
Many felt it was shocking as the two countries clashed in a short war in 2008 during a Russian military intervention in Georgia, and that Russia maintains troops in two Georgian pro-Russian separatist regions bordering its territory.
As protesters tried to enter the parliament, clashes left 240 people injured, including 160 protesters and 80 policemen, and led to 305 arrests.
These demonstrations quickly turned into a more global movement against the domination in the country of the Georgian dream of Bidzina Ivanichvili.
“Ivanichvili has to leave, all his puppet government has to leave,” 19-year-old student Ana Ladaria told AFP.
“He won his billions in Russia, he is controlled by Putin.The Georgians want to get rid of it,” said 47-year-old dentist Alexi Pataridze.
Among the signs held by demonstrators, some said “Stop the USSR” while others questioned the police: “Do not shoot us, we are your children”.
While the Kremlin denounced after Thursday’s clashes a “Russophobic provocation”, the decree signed by Vladimir Putin, officially for security reasons, is likely to hit hard the Georgian tourist sector.
Its natural landscapes, its culinary traditions but also the proximity and the possibility of going there without a visa make Georgia a favorite destination for Russian tourists.
Emergency income the day before Belarus, Georgian President Salomé Zourabichvili acknowledged Friday that the Georgian authorities had made a mistake by inviting a Russian deputy to speak in Parliament at an international meeting on orthodoxy.
“It shocked part of our population,” she said in a video address on Friday, adding that she is ready to “meet all the political forces” in the country to find a way out of the crisis.
As a first consequence of this turmoil, the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, Irakli Kobakhidze, resigned on Friday.
While the NGO Human Rights Watch denounced the use of force against a “non-violent” crowd, Amnesty International called for a “serious investigation” into the behavior of the police. The NGO counts 31 journalists among the wounded.
Bidzina Ivanichvili, for her part, played the appeasement, assuring “to fully share the sincere indignation of the citizens”.
The memory of the August 2008 war remains alive in Georgia. The Russian army had intervened on Georgian territory to rescue the small South Ossetia, Prussian separatist territory where Tbilisi had launched a military operation.
In just five days, the Georgian army had been defeated before a peace agreement was signed. Since then, South Ossetia and another pro-Russian separatist republic, Abkhazia, still have Russian troops on their territory. After the war, Moscow recognized their independence but was followed only by a handful of other countries in the world.