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World reacts to Russian flight ban on Georgia

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, June 25
Hundreds of people abroad are joining appeals from Georgia to travel to the country after Russia decided to ban flights to Georgia on June 21, responding to forcing out their MPs from the Georgian parliament and the country on June 20, during the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy held in Tbilisi.

The ban concerns around one billion USD loss for Georgia as about 25 percent of foreign tourists are Russians.

A recent address to “friends around the world” has gone viral in online media, calling foreign nationals to choose Georgia as their travel destination, with the hashtag used - #WorldwelcometoGeorgia.

“Georgia is small but one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Many of you don’t know about it, because Soviet Regime did their best to hide it from rest of the world and Putin of course still regrets the destruction of one of the bloodiest regimes in the history of humanity,” the message reads.

Lithuania is one of the first countries which joined the appeal.

Ambassador of Lithuania to Georgia Giedrius Poudziunas tweeted that Georgia is “a wonderful environment” for adventure.

“Inviting everyone to support the tourism industry by traveling here this year - a wonderful environment for building your adventure awaits,” he said.

Thousands of Russian nationals have also signed a petition protesting upon the decision of their President Vladimir Putin on the ban.

“Allow flights between Georgia and Russia, as Russian citizens in Georgia are in safety. As for the protest rallies – this is the right of the Georgian citizens,” the petition reads.

The authors of the petition say the two countries should maintain their friendly relations and that everyone should decide for themselves where they want to travel.

Rallies in Tbilisi were sparked by the address made by a Russian MP Sergey Gavrilov from the seat of Georgian parliamentary speaker during the international religious event in Tbilisi, as Gavrilov is the president of the assembly.

The opposition blocked the session, demanded the MPs of the occupant country to leave Georgia and urged people to protest upon the developments in the Georgian parliament and protect the state dignity later the same day at the rally.

The Georgian Dream ruling party called Gavrilov’s address “an alarming mistake” and stated that those organizing the event in Tbilisi would be held accountable.

The situation got tensed at the rally on June 20, which led to the dispersal, detention of 305 and injuring of 240, with several young people losing eyesight due to the runner bullet shots.

The dispersal grew the public protest, demanding the resignation of parliament speaker, interior minister, release of the detainees and snap parliamentary elections with the proportional electoral system.

On June 21, Putin announced the ban on flights to Georgia and demanded relevant agencies to “safely take our Russian citizens from Georgia.” The Russian Foreign Ministry also “demanded from Georgia” to protect Russian citizens.

The ban was announced to come into play from July 8.

The Georgian National Airways says that it will offer its consumers Tbilisi-Armenia-Russia transit flights instead.

As of now, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze is dismissed [as the ruling party says Kobakhidze made the decision himself on resignation] and the demand on elections-met.

However, the opposition says that two other demands must also be fulfilled.