Russian leader Vladimir Putin warned Georgia not to use “language of blackmail and provocation” against Russia in his second remarks made since tension was sparked between the two countries on September 27.
While meeting with chairmen of the parliamentary factions on October 4, Putin thanked the Russian MPs for “support for the actions of the executive government directed towards protection of rights, honor and life of our citizens abroad.”
The Russian State Duma Council, the lower house of the Parliament, passed a statement on October 4 titled “About Anti-Russian and Anti-Democratic Policy of the Georgian Leadership,” which descibes the Georgian authorities’ actions as “state terrorism.”
“Russia has the right to undertake a series of measures, including sanctions against Georgia, involving first of all a financial-economic one, to protect the security of the citizens of the Russian Federation,” the statement reads.
Meanwhile in Strasbourg, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told MPs from Council of Europe member states on October 4 that his country seeks “friendly relations with the Georgian people,” but added that Russia will not yield to “provocations of Saakashvili’s regime.”
Recent statements from Russian officials indicate that Moscow’s sanctions are against “Saakashvili’s regime” but not against “the Georgian people.”
But some Russian parliamentarians warned on October 4 that Russia should refrain from tough sanctions against Georgia, at least until after local elections in Georgia, as Moscow is “becoming a part of the Saakashvili’s stage-show.”
“Saakashvili will receive 90% of votes in the [October 5 local self-governance] elections. He organized all this on the eve of the elections. But we failed to figure out all the details of this Georgian show,” MP Alexey Mitrofanov from the Liberal Democratic Party said while addressing the Duma Council on October 4.
Earlier, Russian media sources reported that the Duma Council was also planning to discuss a proposal to toughen sanctions against Georgia through authorizing the government to ban money-transfers from Russia into Georgia.
Fyodor Lukyanov, an editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, says in his commentary published by the English-language daily Moscow Times on October 4 that Russia’s decision to impose sanctions on Georgia after the latter released four Russian officers “plays right into Tbilisi's hands.”
“Georgia, meanwhile, was able to catch its U.S. partners in a trap. After Russia tightened the screws, the United States increased its support for Georgia. Moscow believes that the Georgian leadership doesn't lift a finger without getting the OK from Washington, so it assumed that the United States was behind the arrests. As a result, relations between the three countries have been twisted into a single knot,” Lukyanov says in his newspaper commentary.
Meanwhile, Russian law enforcers are reportedly targeting Georgian businesses in Moscow. The Russian daily Kommersant reported on October 4 that police have launched probes into firms owned by native Georgians and the Federal Migration Service is scrutinizing invitation letters used by Georgians to get Russian Federation entry visas.
At the meeting with senior parliamentarians on October 4 President Putin also said that although the Russian economy will remain “open and transparent… we should regulate migration inflow.”
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said on October 4 that its Embassy in Moscow will work round-the-clock to provide “maximum service and protection to Georgian citizens in Russia.”
Meanwhile, authorities in Tbilisi are trying to redirect flights between Georgia and Russia via third countries to ease a transport blockade imposed by Russia.
On October 4 the Georgian Economy Ministry published a schedule of flights from Tbilisi to Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which can be used as transit routes between Tbilisi and Moscow. The Ministry has also published a schedule of passenger mini-buses and buses going between Tbilisi and Yerevan, Armenia. The latter is the cheapest transit route.
The U.S. and EU have already called on Russia to lift sanctions from Georgia, but Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on October 3 that Moscow has no such intention at the time being. He also responded that there is no need for mediators between Russia and Georgia.