Georgia’s president has been prohibited from using Georgian Airways’ services by the company’s founder after she threatened to boycott it because it resumed flights to Russia, according to a report from the Russian TASS news agency on Sunday.
This month, Russia made the announcement that it was easing a four-year-old restriction on direct flights to Georgia and eliminating a decades-old visa requirement for Georgians visiting Russia.
President Salome Zourabichvili urged Georgian authorities to thwart the Russian initiative, an appeal they ignored.
Tamaz Gaiashvili, founder of privately-owned Georgian Airways, was cited by TASS on Sunday as saying that Zourabichvili was now “persona non grata” and would be banned until she “apologises before the Georgian people”.
There was no immediate reaction from Zourabichvili.
Although Georgian officials welcomed the resumption of flights, some Georgians who want the South Caucasus country to distance itself from Moscow in favour of the European Union demonstrated against it in central Tbilisi on Sunday.
Many Georgians oppose any rapprochement with Moscow whose troops garrison two breakaway regions – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – that make up around one fifth of the country’s territory.
Other Georgians are more open to the idea however, and the Georgian government has in recent years worked to improve ties with Moscow, declining to impose sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine.
President Zourabichvili, whose position is largely ceremonial and whose relations with the government are strained, has warned that deepening ties with Russia could jeopardise the country’s chances of the EU one day.