June 13, 2024

Columbus Post

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Ukraine conflict: Georgia is set to become a hub between Russia and Europe

Ukraine conflict: Georgia is set to become a hub between Russia and Europe

After flights between Russia and Georgia become possible again, Tbilisi should become a hub between the two regions – without coordinated flight schedules and long waiting times. Not everyone likes it.

It was a special flight: a Sukhoi Superjet 100 operated by Russian airline Azimuth Airlines landed at an airport in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, on May 19. This is the first flight from Russia since 2019. Because in 2019, the Kremlin imposed a flight ban between the two countries due to anti-Russian rallies in Tbilisi. Until May 2023, Vladimir Putin lifted the ban by decree and introduced visa-free travel for Georgian nationals.

It could have been part of a larger plan. Because if the latest Russian plans have their way, Georgia should become a hub for Russians in Europe. Until now, passengers have had to use routes via countries such as Turkey, Armenia or Serbia, as air sanctions after Russia’s attack on Ukraine have made direct flights impossible.

Consolidated flight schedules

Compared to Russian Business newspaper RBC Vitaly Vantsev, co-owner of Azimuth Airlines and Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, said Tbilisi aims to become a transit hub for passengers between Russia and Europe. Besides Azimuth Airlines, Georgian Airways recently resumed flights between Russia and Georgia. Ukraine added the airline to the sanctions list.

Georgian Airlines announced in May that it would introduce transit flights from Russia to Europe. Cities such as Vienna, Milan, Paris, Thessaloniki and Larnaca are mentioned. According to Vantsev, the two airlines are planning to coordinate flight schedules so that the transfer time will be only one to one and a half hours.

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Protest in Georgia

The resumption of flights with Russia sparked protests in Georgia. Protesters gathered at Tbilisi airport, the parliament building and in front of the Georgian Airways office. Pro-Western Georgians fear that Georgia’s long-awaited EU candidacy could be in jeopardy.

The Georgian government has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but has not joined international sanctions for fear of negative economic consequences for Georgia.