The Russian Foreign Ministry (MID) criticized the Georgian government for its intention to include Yuri Luzhkov, the former Moscow Mayor, to the list of unwanted persons due to his past visits to Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia.
Luzhkov visited Georgia in early May, sparking criticism in the country due to his previous visits to the two regions in violation of the Georgian law on occupied territories, which prohibits unauthorized entry into Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia. After the visit, Georgian Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Shalva Khutsishvili said that Luzhkov would be included in a special list, restricting him from entering Georgia again.
The Russian Foreign Ministry reacted to the decision by issuing a statement on May 15, saying that “official Tbilisi continues systematic provocations that undermine the process of improving relations with Russia.” “It is difficult to provide rational explanations for this action, as Russia-Georgia normalization brings tangible benefits for the economy and the citizens of Georgia,” the ministry said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also stated that it is “forced” to advise the Russian citizens to consider the risks of travelling to Georgia and pointed out that “in the absence of diplomatic relations, which were severed by Georgia,” the Russian Interests Section at the Embassy of Switzerland in Tbilisi “has very limited capabilities to protect fellow citizens from the arbitrary behavior of the authorities.”
The ministry added that that the Georgian authorities “did not dare to apply the penalties associated with the “Law on Occupied Territories” to Yury Luzhkov, and released a “verdict” only after he left “the hospitable Georgia.” However, it went on, “in recent years, unfortunately, there have been other instances where Russian citizens in similar situations were repeatedly subjected to fines and even imprisonment. We would like to remind you that the law provides for a fine of up to $3,000 or imprisonment for up to four years.”