Moscow on Monday gave a Georgian airline permission to fly to Russia for the first time since the two countries fought a war last year, but Georgian Airways said the permission came too late to organise the flights.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month announced a series of moves to restore ties between the Georgian and Russian people, but warned there would be no official contacts as long as Mikheil Saakashvili remained president.

The Russian transport ministry announced on Monday it had given Georgian Airways permission for charter flights on December 29 and 30. Ministry spokesman Timur Khikmatov said they would be the first passenger flights since the war.

A Georgian Airways spokeswoman said: “This permission came too late. We cannot organise these flights and cannot sell tickets within two days.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Georgian authorities were to blame because they took five days to give their permission. The Georgian government was not immediately available for comment.

Ties between Georgia and Russia have been frozen since Georgia suffered humiliating defeat in a brief war in 2008.

In the first sign of thawing ties, Medvedev said earlier this month that he saw no obstacle to the resumption of flights and the granting of visa-free travel in Russia for Georgian citizens.

Moscow last week announced the opening of a key border post between the countries for the first time since the war.