Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili announced the need to abandon the visa-free regime with Russia, which has been in effect for 20 years and introduce visa practice. She announced this at a briefing in Chisinau following a visit to Moldova and a meeting with President Maia Sandu, RIA Novosti reported.
It was clarified that the head of the country cannot make such a decision unilaterally. The decisive role in this matter belongs to the government of Georgia.
The first goal of the potential change by the authorities is to reduce the length of stay for Russian tourists in the country from the current one year to three months. “The citizens of the Russian Federation who ended up in Georgia are a provocation, I can’t say that this is a danger, but this is a challenge. Perhaps it will be necessary to talk about visas for citizens of the Russian Federation since now everything is quite liberal, this decision should be made by the Georgian government together with society,” the leader of the country said.
The second goal is to expand control mechanisms. “Both former citizens of the country and citizens of Russia come to Georgia. She stressed that the country’s authorities apply all control mechanisms so that there is no danger to residents, ”the publication noted.
“The main thing here is that the public is sure that all control mechanisms are used so that there is no danger. I think that this requires more communication and more information to our society so that all possible threats and issues are considered by the authorities and all measures are taken,” Zurabishvili added.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, in the period from September 17-26, about 78,000 Russians entered the neighboring country from Russia, and fewer – about 62,000 people left in the opposite direction.
Reference: Georgia abolished visa requirements for Russians 20 years ago, in 2012, although Russia, for its part, retained them for Georgian citizens. At first, our compatriots were allowed to enter Georgia without a visa for up to 90 days, but after that, this period was extended to 1 year.
Georgian opposition parties were particularly concerned about the huge influx of Russians. So, immediately after the start of the Russian special operation in Ukraine, they began to demand the abolition of the visa-free regime, referring to the existing security threats in Georgia. In March, the Georgian Tourism Industry Alliance, which unites 29 associations, also advocated the introduction of a visa regime for Russians. These calls subsided to some extent in the summer, but resurfaced in August when a petition about the need to obtain a visa for citizens of Russia and Belarus began to circulate on the Internet and collected more than 19,000 signatures.