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North Caucasus reaction to visa free proposal

By Messenger Staff
Friday, October 15
According to the decree of Georgian president, from October 13 citizens of seven autonomous entities of the Russian federation: Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Dagestan, Kabardo Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia and Adigeia will be allowed to cross the Russian-Georgian border without a visa and stay in Georgia for up to 90 days,

Georgian authorities explained their reasoning for this step being their concern that Russian citizens have to travel to Moscow to get a Georgian visa at the Swiss embassy there, whereas now they can cross into Georgia without any delay. The authorities also point out that this is a step which realises the idea of a united Caucasus as announced by President Saakashvili at the UN tribune. Moscow has reacted negatively to the move. The Russian Foreign Minister, Lavrov criticised the decision for being a one-sided propaganda move since usually such issues are decided on a partnership level between civilised players. However it seems comrade Lavrov has sclerosis as Russia ceased being Georgia’s civilised partner when it began behaving in an uncivilized manner and one-sidedly introduced a visa regime for Georgia’s citizens and later also one-sidedly blocked the Zemo Larsi checkpoint. One-sidedly Russia allowed Georgian citizens from Kazbegi region to stay in the South Caucasus for 30 days. All these moves are similar to that taken recently by Georgia; some Moscow moves are even arrogant such as the introduction of visas for Georgians when Georgia was still a member of the CIS, and of course Russia’s ongoing occupation of Georgian territories can certainly not be called acting in a civilised manner.

So whatever the Kremlin’s reaction, from a legal point of view the Georgian decision is completely correct. Officially Moscow cannot complain about Tbilisi’s decision. Any country has the right to make it easy for the citizens residing in the border region to enter each other’s territory.

Moscow’s reaction is most probably negative because of the fact that Georgia’s influence and authority in the north Caucasus regions could be increasing thus, as some public figures claim, it should be acknowledged that Georgia’s influence currently is increasing and the consequences of such a situation are unpredictable. Russian Federation authorities think that Georgia has recently been playing very active role towards the north Caucasus. Special bodies have been set up in the Georgian parliament and the visa free regime introduction is another significant step in this direction. It has also become clear that Georgia is looking for partners in the Russian federation with informal political structures and leaders rather than official representatives of the administration.

Leader of the Adige Khase movement in Adigea Asker Sokht asks the questions, “Who is behind these moves of the Georgian leadership, who masterminded these politics?” Ilias Soptsokov from the same organisation thinks that Georgia’s new strategy is a part of US interest in the region. He believes that this kind of policy will soon probably turn the north Caucasus people towards Georgia direction.

Editor-in-chief of Dagestani newspaper, Novoe Delo, Marko Shakhbanov lists the advantages of a free visa regime with Georgia. He thinks that it will become much easier for Dagestani people to see and visit their relatives in Georgia. Georgian analysts and politicians also are not unanimous about the decision. There are enthusiasts but there are also skeptics who suggest that this step will definitely irritate Russian officials and it cannot be predicted what they will do in response to Georgia’s move. They are also afraid that north Caucasus citizens entering Georgia might trigger some unpleasant developments such as the crime situation, terrorism threats and so on. One could predict that Moscow might block or limit its citizens entry to Georgia but one way or another; it is an intriguing step by Georgia.