Putin says he opposes trade restrictions against Georgia
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday took a step toward cooling tensions with Georgia, rejecting calls for new economic sanctions.
Relations between the two neighbors dipped to a new low last month, following anti-Russian protests in the Georgian capital sparked by a Russian lawmaker’s appearance at the country’s parliament. Putin ordered a ban on direct flights between the two countries, citing security concerns for Russian holidaymakers — a measure that took effect Monday.
Tensions escalated further on Sunday when a host on Georgia’s independent Rustavi 2 television station unleashed a stream of profanities about Putin and his parents in a live broadcast.
Georgian officials quickly denounced the rant, describing it as another attempt by the opposition to deepen the rift with Moscow, but Russia’s lower house of parliament voted Tuesday to urge the government to impose restrictions on economic ties with Georgia.
Senior lawmakers specifically called for halting money transfers from Georgians living in Russia and for banning imports of Georgian wine and mineral water.
Putin, however, showed willingness to assuage tension.
“I wouldn’t do it out of my respect for the Georgian people,” Putin said in televised remarks. “For the sake of restoring full-fledged ties, I wouldn’t do anything that would exacerbate our relations.”
He dismissed the Georgian TV host as “some scumbag” who doesn’t deserve attention.
Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2008, after which Russia recognized the independence of two of Georgia’s breakaway republics. Despite a freeze in political ties, more than 1 million Russian tourists a year have visited Georgia, attracted by its scenic mountains and lush sea coast.
Russia banned wine and mineral water supplies from Georgia in 2006 amid an earlier political spat, but the ban was lifted six years later and Russia again has become the No. 1 destination for Georgian wine exports.