The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday about easing visa requirements for the Georgian citizens starting from December 23.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also said that as a next step it does “not rule out” possibility of lifting visa requirements for Georgia.
“In the context of ongoing process of normalization of Russian-Georgian relations and in the view of stimulating positive trends between our countries, starting from December 23, 2015 business, work, study and humanitarian visas of any multiplicity, as well as private visas regardless of whether there is kinship or not between host and invited person… will be issued to the citizens of Georgia,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
“The Russian side is determined to take further steps directed towards easing conditions for communication between the citizens of the two countries and is not ruling out to subsequently introduce visa-free regime on the basis of reciprocity,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Georgia already has visa-free rules for the Russian citizens.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s announcement came five days after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said during his annual press conference that Moscow is “ready to cancel visa regime” for the Georgian citizens. The remarks were welcomed by Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili as “a step in the right direction.”
Also on December 22, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin spoke by phone with Georgian PM’s special representative for relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze and “clarified measures for liberalisation of the visa regime for Georgians”, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Abashidze, who is Georgia’s negotiator with Russia in frames of direct bilateral dialogue with Moscow launched in late 2012, welcomed Moscow’s announcement and said that it implies a “significant simplification of visa rules” compared to those applied by Russia currently.
He said that his next meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Karasin is planned for February and one of the issues discussed will be “this next step” of possible lifting of visa requirements.
“We will see how this simplified visa regime works and then we will review how to proceed further,” Abashidze told the Georgian public broadcaster on Tuesday evening.
Abashidze declined to respond a question if he thought that this move by Russia was made in response to the European Commission’s decision to pave the way for visa-free travel rules for the Georgian citizens in the Schengen area – a widespread notion among many Georgian political commentators.
“Let the experts speak about it,” Abashidze responded when asked this question.
Issue of easing, but not lifting, visa requirements for the Georgian citizens has been regularly raised in talks between Abashidze and Karasin. Judging from Karasin’s previous remarks, Moscow’s position on the issue, at least before Putin’s remarks, had been that lifting of visa requirements was not likely until restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries, which were cut after the August, 2008 war.