Russia’s Visa Facilitation with Georgia a Poisoned Apple for Georgians?

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has announced visa-facilitation with Georgia following the EU’s decision to waive visas for citizens of Georgia on December 18th.

On Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry (MFA) announced that from December 23 a visa-regime will be facilitated for Georgian citizens. The statement published said that for business, working, educational or humanitarian purposes in Russia, multiple entrance visas will be granted.

The Russian MFA says Russia is committed to encouraging the maintenance of relations between citizens of the two states, which may in the future be reflected in introducing rules for visa-free travel.

The Georgian PM’s Special Envoy in relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, stated that simplification of the visa regime for Georgians is the right step for Russia to take and will solve problems that many Georgians face.

“It has been very hard to receive Russian visas [in the past]. The simplification will solve many problems for our citizens. The interests of our compatriots living in Russia as well as Georgian businessmen and ordinary citizens also need be taken into account,” Abashidze declared.

Before the announcement, Abashidze told reporters, “we have been trying to lift our relationship with Russia from a deep impasse, and small signs of it indeed exist.”

The issue of visa-facilitation for citizens of Georgia was raised amid the process of granting Georgian citizens a visa-free regime for Schengen countries, when Russian President Vladimir Putin at a regular press-conference stated that the Russian side is ready to facilitate or waive visas for Georgian citizens.

“Georgia’s former adventurist government should carry the historic blame for the country’s break-up. Russia did not initiate the degradation of Russian-Georgian relations,” Vladimir Putin went on to say.

Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili has responded to Putin’s statement, citing “as always, Putin remembered me. Vladimir Vladimirovich cannot forget me. He does not like what I do in Ukraine and I understand him. He has told so many lies about me that he will soon need surgery to prevent his nose from growing,’ Saakashvili wrote.

Meanwhile, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has called the Russian President’s statement about cancelling the visa regime to Georgia the right one.

PM Garibashvili stated that the Georgian side is ready to continue its pragmatic course with Russia.

“The Georgian government cancelled the visa regime for Russian citizens in 2011. We have also allowed Russians to stay in Georgia longer this year, as we are interested in attracting more tourists from Russia and for contacts between people to be simplified,” the PM stated.

Leader of Democratic Movement Nino Burjanadze, who is widely considered as pro-Russian, declared Putin’s statement was no surprise at all as the Russian government had informed her about its readiness several months ago. When she returned from Russia in June, she announced the Russian government’s consent on simplifying the visa regime for Georgian citizens and on launching serious talks regarding abolishment of the regime.


Visa-facilitation by Russia is perceived dissimilarly within Georgian expert and professional circles. Some claim Russia’s endeavor solely pertains to tempting Georgians with a poisoned apple.

Likewise, the majority of pro-westerners in Georgia consider the Russian decision a meek diplomatic trick to gaining the favor of the Georgian people prior to the 2016 parliamentary elections. At this crossroad, Georgia has nearly entered the pre-electoral campaign, where expectedly pro-western and pro-Russian parties will have a nontrivial battle to gain seats in Parliament.

Looking at the latest opinion polls by various US organizations in Georgia, despite extensive Russian propaganda in the country, western supporters face no decline. That said, a number of studies have pointed to the need for increased communication with the public for the Georgian government to elucidate the benefits of the EU integration.

Meanwhile, Georgia remains a strategic location in the region for the west, in terms of Europe’s energy security, new trade routes via the newly inaugurated Silk Road Project and stability in the region.

Zviad Adzinbaia

24 December 2015 19:19