Russia Visa Facilitation for Georgians Only Worth the Paper it’s Written On?

Late December, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said Russia is ready to restore diplomatic relations with Georgia, following a positive report by the European Commission of December 18th on Georgia’s visa liberalization with the EU.

Karasin said Georgia’s ex-President Saakashvili decided to cut diplomatic ties with Russia after he was forced to ‘cope with aggression and the recognizing of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.’

According to the Russian official, the initiative to cease diplomatic relations came from the Georgian President. “We were ready to restore relations, but they demanded that Russia withdraws its recognition of the sovereignty of Abkhazia and South Ossetia first.”

Prior to Karasin’s proposal, Russia 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. In response, the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said no interagency negotiations concerning the issue are underway.

The Russian MFA said 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.

Russian President Vladimir Putin early December at his annual press-conference stated that “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.”


Russia occupies one fifth of Georgia’s sovereign territory – Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia). After the Russian aggression of 2008 in Georgia and the recognition of the two breakaway regions as independent states, the then Georgian government cut diplomatic ties with the Russian government.

The majority of pro-westerners in Georgia consider the Russian initiative a meek diplomatic trick to gaining the favor of the Georgian people and making them forget about the aggression and occupation that has claimed the lives of thousands of Georgians and left hundreds of thousands homeless in their own country.

The official position of the previous as well as the current Georgian Government articulate that diplomatic ties between the two countries will remain cut until Russia takes back its recognition of the two Georgian territories as independent states and fulfills the Sarkozy-Medvedev 6-point Agreement of August 2008.

At the same time, the Russian Government remains unwavering regarding the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, having signed military agreements with the de-facto governments of both regions.

Could diplomacy between Russia and Georgia have any palpable aftermath? Otto von Bismarck once said: “Russia will sign any agreement, but the value of the treaty will be lower than that of the paper on which it is drafted.” Could Georgians employ this principle in dealing with Russia? What is the purpose of the Russian visa-liberalization, since the same government was responsible for the deportation of thousands of Georgians from the country in 2006?

Zviad Adzinbaia

06 January 2016 20:25