President Vladimir Putin has lifted a flight ban to and visa regime with Georgia, against which Russia fought a brief war in 2008, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.

 

According to a decree released on Wednesday, Putin has introduced a 90-day visa-free travel regime for Georgian citizens starting on May 15.

 

One of Russia’s best-known propagandists, Sergey Mardan, framed the move as one of benevolence from Putin, bestowing a reward on a pliant Georgian population.

 

"The Georgians have been given a visa-free visa and air travel has been opened.

Be good, and the Russian tsar will grant you favors," he wrote on his Telegram channel.

 

At the same time as the visa regime change, Russia has lifted a ban on air traffic from Russia to Georgia for its airlines. Direct air connection between Russia and Georgia was suspended in the summer of 2019, after the start of anti-Russian protests in Tbilisi.

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Georgia's President Salome Zourabichvili on Wednesday slammed Moscow's decision, denouncing the move as a new "provocation."

However, President Zourabichvili's position is largely ceremonial, and she has  repeatedly accused the ruling Georgian Dream party of having ties to Moscow since being elected with its backing in 2018.

The two nations share a complicated history, and Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's former president who is now in jail, is seen as one of Moscow's top enemies, AFP reports.

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In 2008, after years of tensions and Saakashvili's efforts to forge closer ties with the West, Moscow fought a brief but bloody war with Georgia.

However, the current Georgian authorities have in recent years been accused by the opposition of forming close ties with the Kremlin.

Georgia's ruling party insists it is committed to Georgia's EU and NATO membership bid, enshrined in the constitution and supported – according to opinion polls – by 80 percent of the population.

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