Putin not opposed to visa-free travel with Georgia

Putin's Russia launched a war against Georgia in 2008 August.
Agenda.ge, 19 Dec 2013 - 00:00, Tbilisi,Georgia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia may return the visa-free regime with Georgia.

"It would be a very good step towards the normalization of the relations, would facilitate people-to-people ties, help entrepreneurs, and pave the way for full normalization of the relations, he told Georgian journalist in Moscow at the press conference at his live Q&A show on December 19.

Putin said the issue should be reviewed by experts and praised Russia-Georgias relations.

"We are united by deep cultural, moral, and religious relations. "We are not to blame for the existing problems. It was not us (Russia) who started the military operations. Certain realities have been formed. But we see the signals given by the new Georgian government, he said.

Russian President said his personal attitude towards the Georgian government has changed, adding that his attitude towards the Georgian people has always been good.

"Even during the most difficult time, when fighting was underway in the Caucasus [reference to the August, 2008 war], relations with the Georgian people were very good. And it was confirmed even during those difficult days and hours and demonstrated in attitude of Georgians themselves towards Russia. Dont remember if I have ever said it publicly, but in one of the towns a grandpa approached our soldiers and told him: What do you want here? What are you looking for here? Go over there Tbilisi and take Mishka [referring to then President Mikheil Saakashvili].

"You know we had losses among our military servicemen. Aircraft was downed, a pilot ejected and landed somewhere; a Georgian babushka approached and told him: Come here son; she took him and fed him. Then he was sent towards the Russian military, Putin said.

Putin's Russia launched a war against Georgia in 2008 August. Moscow and Tbilisi promptly broke off diplomatic relations with each other. Russian troops are now stationed in 20% of the country's territory.

But now, Georgia's new government, which ousted President Mikheil Saakashvili's party from power in October, wants to re-establish trade and business links with Moscow.

Since summer, Moscow has scrapped its ban on sales of Georgian wine and mineral waters and since autumn, they allowed Georgian agriculture products.

Georgia says it will restore diplomatic relations with Russia only if the latter reverses its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway regions of Georgia.