Opposition MP backs ruling party Chairman’s criticism of UNM opposition’s calls for visa requirement for Russian nationals

  • Kobakhidze on Thursday rejected the calls of the Lelo for Georgia opposition party for imposing visa requirements for Russian and Belarusian citizens by calling it a “deliberate, xenophobic campaign that is absolutely disgraceful”. Photo: Parliament of Georgia
     

Agenda.ge, 5 Aug 2022 - 14:56, Tbilisi,Georgia

Iago Khvichia, an MP from the Girchi opposition party, on Friday backed comments by Irakli Kobakhidze, the Chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, that highlighted calls for imposing visa requirements on Russian citizens were coming from opposition members who had ruled to lift visa rules on Russian nationals while in power as part of the United National Movement Government in 2011.

[T]he argument and criticism of Irakli Kobakhidze are correct as the people who initiated lifting visa requirements [for Russian citizens] in 2011 are now protesting against the visa-free entry. It is strange, on the one hand, to support lifting visa requirements when you are in power and then to say that the country is being occupied by this method. Consistency is very important [here]”, Khvichia said.

Kobakhidze on Thursday rejected the calls of the Lelo for Georgia opposition party for imposing visa requirements for Russian and Belarusian citizens to prevent security threats in Georgia on the backdrop of Russia’s war in Ukraine by calling it a “deliberate, xenophobic campaign that is absolutely disgraceful”.

[I] will remind that after the August war [the 2008 war with Russia], the previous [United National Movement] Government introduced a visa-free travel for Russian citizens, and today the same people call on us to impose restrictions, sanctions, and so on. It is a xenophobia and of course we will have a tough response to this xenophobia”, the GD official said.

Russia unilaterally introduced the visa regime with Georgia in December 2000 to “prevent terrorsim threats”, claiming that thousands of refugees and fighters had fled from Chechnya to Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge during the second Chechen war (1999-2000). 

Georgia suspended diplomatic relations with Russia following the Russia-Georgia 2008 war and cancelled visa-free movement with the neighbouring country. However, Tbilisi lifted the restriction starting March 1, 2012, while Georgians still need a visa to visit Russia.

In its statement earlier this week, the Lelo for Georgia party said that the “uncontrolled influx” of Russian and Belarusian citizens to Georgia on the backdrop of Russia’s war in Ukraine, was a “serious security challenge to Georgia '' amid continuous occupation of Georgian territories by Russia. 

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