Direct flight from Russia lands in Georgia for first time since 2019, met with protests at Tbilisi airport
On May 19, a plane from Russia-based airline Azimuth departing from Moscow landed in Tbilisi, marking the first direct flight between the two countries in four years.
According to TV Rain, an independent Russian news outlet, the police blocked off an area around the Shota Rustaveli International Airport in Tbilisi before the plane landed. The police also closed the waiting areas inside the airport. When asked, they did not give a reason as to why the areas were blocked off.
Supporters of the Georgian opposition protested outside the airport.
Direct flights from Russia to Georgia have been banned since 2019. Russian President Vladimir Putin lifted the ban on May 10. He also canceled visa restrictions for Georgian citizens.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, who opposes many of the ruling Georgian Dream party’s policies, called Putin’s decisions “another Russian provocation.” She said the resumption of direct flights and the abolition of visa requirements “are unacceptable as long as Russia continues its aggression against Ukraine and occupies our territory.” In August 2008, Russia invaded Georgia and soon recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
In addition to the Airlines Azimuth, Georgian Airways and Red Wings are also set to operate direct flights between Russia and Georgia.