Putin rejects parliamentary demand for Georgian sanctions
Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to reduce tension with Georgia by rejecting parliamentary calls for trade restrictions as thousands of Russian holidaymakers prepare to head to their sun-kissed neighbour.
Relations were disrupted last month between the neighbours by violent protests in Tbilisi after a nationalist Russian MP’s appearance at the Georgian parliament.
Putin banned direct flights, saying he had security concerns for Russian tourists.
On Sunday an independent Georgian Rustavi 2 television anchor, Giorgi Gabunia, let loose a series of profanities about Putin and his late mother during a live broadcast.
The 46-year-old called Putin a “stinking invader”. “Oh, your mummy’s dead . . . Let her burn in hell along with you and your father,” he added.
In accented Russian, Gabunia expressed a desire to “shit” on the Putin family’s graves and called Russians “slaves” who should leave Georgia.
The Georgian government denounced the rant on Georgia’s most popular TV channel, saying it was another attempt by the opposition to deepen the rift with Moscow.
The Russian duma voted yesterday (Tuesday) to urge the government to enforce trade penalties against Georgia in response to the broadcast.
Putin, however, said he opposed the proposed restrictions.
“I wouldn’t do it out of my respect for the Georgian nation,” said Putin. “For the sake of restoring our ties, I wouldn’t do anything to hurt our relations.”
The Georgian television host was just “some scumbag” who should not be taken seriously, the veteran president said.
“He blabbed away, making himself out to be something. No one knew him before and now everyone is talking about him. He has achieved what he set out to do in that sense,” the 66-year-old said.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the famously homophobic Chechen strongman president, said Putin’s allies could seek retribution. “They could do to [Gabunia] what he deserves,” the former militant warned.
Rustavi 2 later went off the air for a few hours for “security concerns”. The channel had initially refused to apologise but later backed down, suspending Gabunia, saying his outburst breached ethical standards.
Russia and Georgia fought a short, one-sided war in 2008, after which the Kremlin recognised the independence of two of Georgia’s breakaway republics, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Russia occupies about a fifth of Georgian territory.
Georgia in recent years has hosted more than 1 million Russians a year, with tourists attracted by the Black Sea coast, the wine and Georgian mountains.
Russian politicians earlier this week called for bans on Georgian wine and mineral water, repeating action taken in 2006. The bans were lifted six years later.
Russians have long been attracted to Georgia. Picture credit: IHA