On Sunday May 21st, Georgian Airways announced that it was banning the country’s president from boarding its planes after President Salome Zurabishvili said she would boycott the company in response to the company’s decision to resume flights to Russia, as reported by Russia’s TASS news agency.
Tamaz Gaiashvili, the airline’s founder, said in a statement, which was quoted by TASS where he declared the head of state of Georgia “persona non grata.” He went on to say that until Salome Zurabishvili “apologizes to the Georgian people” she will not be allowed to “board” Georgian Airways planes.
I personally declare a boycott of Georgian Airways and urge you to join it.Salome Zurabishvili, President of Georgia
Flights to Georgia had been banned since 2019, but last week Vladimir Putin suspended the blockade and granted a visa-free regime to citizens of that country who wish to travel to Moscow. The Georgian President called the move a “provocation” by the Kremlin and subsequently urged citizens to boycott Georgian Airways.
According to Reuters news agency, many citizens of Georgia oppose any rapprochement with Russia, which in 2008 recognized the independence of two separatist regions: South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Zurabishvili’s appeals have however been ignored by Georgian authorities.
“I personally declare a boycott of Georgian Airways and urge you to join it,” said Zurabishvili said in a statement released on Saturday May 20th, quoted by TASS. “This is a company that uses the state to enrich itself. The same thing happened during the previous government. It continued during the Covid-19 pandemic and now they want to take advantage of the new reality [the resumption of flights to Russia], which is unacceptable to the majority of our population.”
There have been signs of rapprochement with Russia, at least among a section of Georgia’s politicians and business people. The country’s government has worked over the past few years to improve relations with Moscow, and they declined to impose sanctions after Russia invaded Ukraine more than a year ago. For several months, Georgia’s political opposition has denounced the government conciliatory behavior towards Russia.
Georgian Airways first flight for Moscow left Tbilisi on the morning of Saturday May 20th and arrived almost three hours later in Moscow. TASS stated that the airline will offer seven such trips per week.