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Putin bans Russian airlines from flying to Georgia

Putin bans Russian airlines from flying to Georgia

Russia’s President Putin has signed a decree prohibiting Russian airlines from transporting Russian citizens to Georgia from July 8. The decision comes after anti-government and anti-Russian protests in Tbilisi.

“Starting from July 8, Russian carriers are temporarily forbidden from undertaking air transportation of citizens from the territory of Russia to Georgia,” the decree reads.

It also advised tour operators and travel agents to refrain from sending Russian tourists to the neighboring state while the ban is place. According to Russian government officials, the restrictions were introduced in order to “ensure the national security of Russia [and] to protect Russian citizens from criminal and other unlawful actions.”

The Russian government has also ‘strongly urged’ all Russian citizens, currently in Georgia, to return to Russia. Earlier on Friday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a warning urging Russian citizens to refrain from traveling to Georgia “for their own security.”

Federal air transport agency Rosaviatsia will hold a meeting with airline representatives about the ban on Saturday, a source said.

Russia’s second largest carrier, S7, has already announced that it’s suspending ticket sales for all flights to Georgia that are scheduled after July 8. Ural Airlines, which flies to Georgia from Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other Russian cities, said a decision on halting sales is to be made on Saturday.

Mass protests erupted in Tbilisi on Thursday after the disruption of a session of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO) at the parliament. Georgian opposition MPs brought the event to a halt after being offended by IAO President –and head of the Russian delegation– Sergey Gavrilov, delivering the opening speech from their parliamentary speaker’s seat.

Tbilisi anti-government and anti-Russia rally, in which around 5,000 took part, turned violent as the demonstrators tried to storm the parliament building. A more orderly protest gathered thousands of people on Friday evening.

Moscow claimed that the protest is a “Russophobic provocation,” aimed at hindering efforts at restoring relations between Georgia and Russia, which remain strained since South Ossetia, encouraged by Russia, seceded from Georgia in 2008. Back then, Russia attacked Georgia, when Georgia’s then-president, Mikheil Saakshvili tried to restore order in separatist Georgian province. After the military conflict, Moscow recognized South Ossetia and another disputed republic, Abkhazia, as sovereign states.