By advising its citizens not to travel to Georgia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is in fact advertising Georgia and deserves âa tourist agent's salaryâ from Tbilisi, President Saakashvili said on April 19.
âHotels are full of Russian tourists. More Lavrov advises [Russians] not to travel to Georgia, the more [Russians] are arriving. Maybe we should recruit Lavrov as a tourist agent, shouldn't we?â Saakashvili told Education Minister Dimitri Shashkin jokingly when visiting a new vocational school in Kobuleti on April 19. âPlanes are packed by Russians; they all are aware of Lavrov's statements, but they are coming into Georgia with even more pleasure. So give Lavrov a travel agent's salary; he is making a good advertisement for Georgia.â
On April 12 the Russian Foreign Ministry recommended its citizens âto refrain from travelingâ to Georgia because of âabsence of securityâ for the Russian citizens, citing Georgia's law on occupied territories, which bans entry into breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia from territories other than those controlled by Tbilisi. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that since February three citizens of Russia had been subject to criminal persecution upon arrival in Georgia for violating Georgia's law on occupied territories.
Speaking at a joint news conference with visiting foreign minister of breakaway Abkhazia in Moscow, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on April 17, that âvisiting Georgia is not safeâ, citing the same law on occupied territories.
Georgia says, that after its decision in late February to unilaterally lift visa requirements for the Russian citizens, number of visits from Russia increased significantly. Russia said it would consider reciprocating with lifting visa rules for Georgian citizens if Tbilisi revised its law on occupied territories. Tbilisi responded that Moscow should reciprocate without putting any preconditions.