In an attempt to attract tourists visiting Sochi during the Winter Olympic Games, breakaway Abkhazia simplified visa rules for foreigners willing to enter into the region from Russia.
Starting from February 10 breakaway region’s foreign ministry started issuing visas at the Psou border crossing point, less than 40 kilometers from the city of Sochi. The rule will be in force during the period of the Olympic Games and foreign citizens will not be required to apply for visa in advance via email or fax to the consular service of the foreign ministry, Abkhaz news agency, Apsnipress, reported.
Under the Georgian law entry into “occupied territories” 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.
Ahead of the Sochi Olympic Games, number of countries, among them Estonia, France and Romania, warned their citizens to refrain from entering into breakaway Abkhazia from Russia, according to the Georgian Foreign Ministry.
Although last year the Georgian Parliament started discussion of a bill, partially decriminalizing illegal entry into breakaway regions from territories other than those controlled by Tbilisi, the proposal was shelved and the bill not yet adopted.