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GYLA Urges MFA to Respond to Cruise Ship Passengers' Possible Law Violation

By Liza Mchedlidze
Friday, July 28, 2023
On July 26, the ASTORIA GRANDE cruise ship from the Russian city of Sochi docked in Batumi, and Russian tourists disembarked, sharing their perspectives on the occupation. Journalists from "Formula" and "Mtavari Channel" conducted interviews with some of the tourists.

One of the Russian citizens claimed to be unaware of any occupation, stating that Georgia was once a republic and union, not occupied. They further asserted that Russia had 'helped' and 'liberated' Abkhazia from Georgia's influence.

Another tourist conveyed their belief that Georgia is the Soviet Union and emphasized that Russia is not an occupier.

A third tourist expressed a lack of awareness regarding Russia's occupation of Georgian territories, viewing the Soviet Union as still existing. They also maintained that Russia is not an occupier, seeing Georgia and Russia as part of the same united country.

In contrast, some Russian tourists deliberately chose not to comment on the occupation when approached by the media.

The Georgian Young Lawyers' Association (GYLA) echoed the information spread by the media regarding the incident. According to GYLA, the cruise ship's passengers may have violated the Georgian law "On Occupied Territories" by entering the Batumi harbor from the Russian Federation.

GYLA highlighted that a special legal regime applies to Georgia's occupied territories due to Russian military aggression. This regime specifies rules and restrictions for citizens of foreign countries or stateless persons entering the occupied area.

The statement clarified that entry to the occupied territories is only allowed from the directions of Zugdidi and Gori municipalities. Any entry from other directions for foreign citizens and stateless persons is strictly prohibited and constitutes a crime under Article 322 (Prima) of the Criminal Code of Georgia.

GYLA called on the Ministry of Internal Affairs to respond promptly by identifying individuals who violate the legislation and urged the use of the mechanisms provided by the Criminal Code to address and penalize such violations.