Private visit of former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov to Georgia in early May caused concern among the Georgian public.
In the past, Luzhkov had publicly violated the Georgian law on occupied territories that prohibits unauthorized entry into Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia.
According to Georgia’s law on occupied territories, unauthorized entry into breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia for foreign citizens from the areas other than Georgian-controlled territories is a subject to criminal punishment. Violation of this rule carries either financial penalty or a jail term from two to four years. However, despite legal hurdles, Luzhkov faced no restrictions when crossing into Georgia and staying in the country for four days.
The Georgian opposition demanded that the government exercise legal sanctions against Luzhkov for violating the legislation. A portion of the public also expressed indignation on Luzhkov’s unrestricted entry into the country on social networks.
Deputy Interior Minister Shalva Khutsishvili told the journalists on May 8 that Luzhkov had entered Georgia “with legal documents which did not contain any information that he [Luzhkov] had violated the law on occupied territories. Therefore, the border guard did not have a formal ground to have decided otherwise.”
On May 9, the Interior Ministry commented on the issue, saying that “information in the public sources confirming Yuri Luzhkov’s presence on the occupied territory in violation of the law” indicated 2010 as the latest such occasion, while the limitation period for this legal violation was six years. The ministry, therefore, “lacked legal basis for launching investigation against Luzhkov.”
Yuri Luzhkov visited Tskhinvali in 2009 and Abkhazia in 2010. In 2009, Luzhkov allocated 2.5 billion rubles (about USD 78.5 million) from Moscow’s municipal budget for construction of the “Moskovsky” district north of Tskhinvali, on the territory belonging to the formerly Tbilisi-controlled village of Tamarasheni. Tamarasheni, along with other ethnic Georgian populated areas in Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, was torched and looted during the August 2008 War.