Anti-war protesters called Russia a “terrorist state” as they clashed with police in Georgia after flights resumed today.
Protesters descended on Tbilisi airport at around 13.20pm local time to board Azimuth Airlines flight A4851 after it arrived from Moscow.
This flight was the first tourist plane to land in Georgia from Russia in four years.
Many protesters held up placards that read “Russian hot air balloon – go away”, “you are not welcome” and “Russia is a state of terror”.
They were angered by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year and the war that followed, which claimed thousands of lives.
Helen Khoshtaria, a politician, democracy and human rights activist, shared footage of her and other protesters heading to the airport in the Georgia capital.
The opposition politician tweeted: “First non-stop Russian flight has landed in #Georgia. #NoToRussiaFlight. Not with the government serving #Russia!”
She later tweeted that there had been “clashes and arrests” at the airport.
Later it was reported that she herself was among those arrested.
In the airport waiting room, a female passenger was asked: “Did you know that Russia is an occupied country?”
“I won’t comment on that,” she replied before protesters continued to press her.
Finally, she said, “I came to have a vacation.”
The Georgian government has welcomed the return of non-stop flights after being unilaterally suspended by Putin following anti-Kremlin protests in Georgia in 2019.
It states that Georgians living in Russia will benefit.
Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream Party, said the flights would significantly reduce costs for those who want to travel for business, on holiday or to see family living abroad.
Kobakhidze also stressed that he is taking a “cautious and pragmatic” approach towards Russia.
This stance has been widely criticized for its refusal to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine – including accusations of bombing civilians and committing war crimes.
Many Georgians believe that the ruling party is carrying out acts of “direct sabotage” of their country’s will to join the EU.
Opposition politicians also fear the new flights could provide an opportunity for Russian officials and businessmen to evade Western sanctions, and claim defiantly that the Georgian people “choose Europe, not Europe.” Russia”.