Unilaterally removal of visa rules for Russian citizens is “a sign of strength” rather than of weakness, President Saakashvili said on March 2 at a meeting with a group of students in his residence in Tbilisi.
“We know that Russia is a problem. They have masterminded several dozen of terrorist acts against us in last two-three years, but we have foiled over 90% of them,” he said, adding that some cases have not been publicized at all recently.
“We are not afraid of inflow of [Russian] tourists, because we have good security system and because we know that our police is not corrupt and our counter-intelligence is efficient. On the other hand we know that a tourist in itself is not dangerous,” he said, adding that visa rules will not anyway stop a spy from infiltrating into the country.
He said more Russian tourists arrive, more positive information about Georgia would be shared among the Russian society, which would help change in public attitudes in Russia towards Georgia; he said social media and blogs were also playing an important role in this regard, adding that he noticed some positive trends in respect of Georgia’s image among the Russian public.
“In the modern world information is more valuable than a weapon,” he said. “Free visa rule for the Russian citizens is an additional tool for us to export our truth to [the country] where it is the most important for us in terms of security.”
Russian citizens are able to enter and stay without a visa in Georgia for 90 days starting from February 29.
In October, 2010 Georgia allowed 90-day visa-free travel for Russian citizens registered as residents of Russia’s republics in the North Caucasus, while other Russian citizens were able to obtain the visa upon arrival in Georgia.