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U.S. Ambassador on Flights: Georgia doesn’t have to become dependent on Russia again
11/05/2023 – 19:05
U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan responded to a question about Moscow’s decision to restore flights with Georgia and said that while it is not for the United States to say whether this will impact Georgia’s chances for the EU candidacy, “it does raise the question as to why Putin would give this to Georgia.” Amb. Degnan noted that no one believes Putin cares about the convenience of Georgian travelers. She also noted that “we have seen that Putin does use the presence of Russians in a country to sometimes interfere in that country.” U.S. Ambassador fielded questions from journalists at the Center for Disease Control program graduation today.
Ambassador noted that many Georgians “are concerned about the hundred thousand Russians who came to Georgia last year” and might balk at more Russian citizens coming since “we hear from the Russian Tourism Agency that maybe a million more might be coming in as a result of these direct flights.”
Ambassador said if the Russian President “wanted to show that he cared about Georgia,” he would have withdrawn Russian forces from Abkhazia and Tskinvali, complied with the obligations under the ceasefire agreement from 2008, and reversed recognition of Abkhazia and Tskinvali regions as independent states.
Amb. Degnan also recalled that Russia is “the country that in 2008, invaded Georgia, that in 1989, tried to crush Georgia’s freedom, that tried to silence Georgia’s language in 1979, and that for centuries desecrated Georgia’s churches throughout this country” adding that this is a country that is attacking Ukraine “in the same way that it attacked Georgia 15 years ago, targeting apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, children, taking children from their families”.
Kelly Degnan noted: “It seems very odd to welcome a gesture from a regime, a bloody regime that is in the middle of doing to Ukraine, what Russia did to Georgia just 15 years ago and still occupies your land”.
Responded to the question on why in 2019 the U.S. Embassy had called for the restoration of air links with Russia, Ambassador Degnan said there is an important difference in the fact that Russia has invaded Ukraine in the meantime. “Russia has destabilized the entire region with this unjustified, brutal war that is purely aimed at taking Ukrainian territory and trying to eliminate Ukraine’s identity. That is a significant change from before,”- noted Amb. Degnan. She also stressed that another important detail is that Georgia doesn’t rely on Russian tourism and Russian business as much as it did in 2019.
Ambassador said: “Georgia does not have to rely on and become dependent on Russia again. That is giving Russia dangerous leverage over your economy. We have seen in many other countries how Russia will use that against your country when it wants to”. She added: “We need more information as to how the Georgian government is going to respond to this, what the details of these potential flights are going to be before we can establish whether there are export control or sanctions that apply to this situation, but I would imagine that there will be some.”
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Georgia Kelly Degnan Russia US Embassy
Content retrieved from: https://civil.ge/archives/541963.