Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said at an annual press conference on Thursday that Moscow is “ready to cancel visa regime” for Georgian citizens.
Asked by a journalist from Tbilisi-based Maestro TV about Russia-Georgia relations in general and specifically on visas as well, Putin started responding by blaming Georgia’s ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili for taking “adventurous decisions” in 2008, which, he said, “led to territorial collapse of Georgia.”
“It’s completely their fault,” Putin said referring to the Georgia’s previous authorities.
He said that appointing Saakashvili as governor of Odessa region was a “spit in the face of the Ukrainian people.”
“As far as territorial integrity of... Georgia is concerned – this is first and foremost an issue up to the people of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia; work with them; we will accept any decision,” Putin said.
“Despite of all the difficulties… we see signals from the current leadership of Georgia and those signals are received. Pay attention to the fact that two-third of Georgian wine exports go to the Russian market and not to somewhere to far abroad,” Putin said, and added that although because of “economic situation in general” bilateral trade has slowed down, “in overall it has quite high pace of growth.”
Georgia exported 28.1 million bottles of wine in the first ten months of 2015 about half of which went to the Russian market, according to the Georgian National Wine Agency.
“As far as visa regime is concerned – yes, we think to, we are ready to cancel visa regime with Georgia,” Putin said.
Issue of easing, but not lifting, visa requirements for the Georgian citizens have been regularly raised in talks between Georgian PM’s special representative for relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin – a format of direct bilateral talks on economic, trade and humanitarian issues, launched in late 2012. Moscow’s position on the issue has been that lifting of visa requirements was not likely until restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries, which were severed after the August, 2008 war.