Russia’s largest airline Aeroflot, which will completely halt flights to Georgia on July 8, said passengers could travel to Georgia via the north Caucasian Vladikavkaz or Yerevan and from there travel to Georgia by land or air transport, the Russian TASS news agency reported.
Aeroflot made the announcement after President Vladimir Putin of Russia signed a decree Friday banning all flights from Russia to Georgia after a standoff at the parliament in Tbilisi where a Russian lawmaker, who was attending a conference of Orthodox church, spoke from the podium setting off a large-scale demonstration by Georgians who were angered that a Russian official was allowed to speak from the legislature’s dais.
Three Armenian carriers – Armenia Aircompany, Taron Avia and Atlantis European – will increase the number of passenger flights to Russia and Georgia, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s adviser Hakob Tchagharyan said on Facebook on Monday.
He said he asked all Armenian carriers about their readiness and availability to participate in the transport of passengers from Russia to Georgia and vice-versa immediately after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order on suspending Russian flights to Georgia beginning on July 8.
“I am happy to note that three airlines – Armenia, Taron Avia and Atlantis European – are ready to participate in settling the crisis that has emerged between brotherly peoples, with five designated aircraft, the number of which can grow with another two. The Prime Minister has been briefed on the results,” Tchagharyan wrote on Facebook.
Meanwhile, Aeroflot said passengers who have bought tickets for direct Moscow-Tbilisi flights will not be charged additional money in case they decide to change the direction of the flight. Passengers who have already purchased tickets for Georgia flights, scheduled for after July 8, may receive a refund of the full price of the ticket or change the date of transportation for free.
In a related development Georgian Airways said it will offer transit flights Tbilisi-Yerevan-Moscow to its passengers. In addition to Georgian Airways, another Georgian airline MyWay Airlines operates flights to Russia.
The Russian Transport Ministry said earlier that flights of Georgian airlines to Russia will be suspended from July 8. “The reason for the suspension of flights is the need to ensure a sufficient level of aviation security, as well as overdue debts for air navigation activities before the State ATM Corporation,” the ministry said, according to TASS.
On June 20, protesters began rallying outside the parliament building in Tbilisi against the participation of Russian parliamentarians in the General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodox.
Georgia’s opposition joined the demonstrators and called for the resignation of the government and the parliament speaker. More than 200 people, including police officers and reporters, were injured.
The protests eventually forced the Speaker of Parliament of Georgia to step down.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili blamed Russia for the protests, to which Russia’s PM Dmitry Medvedev reacted by saying that the accusations are non-professional and that blaming Russia distorts the situation.
On June 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian airlines to suspend flights to Georgia effective July 8.