Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Georgia Offers North Caucasus Residents Visa-Free Travel As Kremlin Cries Foul

Zemo Larsi (Verkhny Lars) checkpoint on Georgia-Russia border
Zemo Larsi (Verkhny Lars) checkpoint on Georgia-Russia border
By Ron Synovitz
STEPANTSMINDA, Georgia -- Lali Pitskhelauri lives just a short drive away from her sister. But the two women haven't seen each other for more than a decade.

Pitskhelauri runs a small guest house and a roadside kiosk in the Georgian town of Stepantsminda, not far from the Russian border. Her sister lives on the Russian side of the frontier in the North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz.

Between them stands the Zemo Larsi (Verkhny Lars in Russian) checkpoint -- the only land border crossing between Russia and Georgia that does not pass through Georgia's Russian-backed separatist regions of South Ossetia or Abkhazia.

Pitskhelauri says she hasn't been able to visit her sister for 11 years.

"How do you think it feels? And it is all because of politicians. It is politicians who closed the road and cut us off from each other."

She asks, distraught, "Why shouldn't we be able to visit each other?"

Victims Of A Decade-Long Struggle

Pitskhelauri and her sister are unintentional victims of a long-standing struggle between Tbilisi and Moscow, which has escalated markedly during the past decade as Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has sought to steer his country into NATO and out of Russia's sphere of influence.

Russia closed the Zemo Larsi crossing in 2006, as relations between Moscow and Tbilisi deteriorated following the arrest of four alleged Russian spies by Georgian authorities. Diplomatic relations were ultimately severed following the five-day war in August 2008.
Giorgi Khutsishvili, resident of Stepantsminda, a town close to the Georgia-Russia border

The two countries agreed to reopen Zemo Larsi in March. But in the absence of diplomatic relations, it remains difficult -- often prohibitively so -- for Russians or Georgians to cross it.

That, however, is about to change -- at least for those on the Russian side of the border. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has signed a decree allowing residents of Russia's seven North Caucasus republics to visit Georgia for up to 90 days without a visa.

Manana Manjgaladze, a spokeswoman for Saakashvili, says it was the lack of formal diplomatic relations between Tbilisi and Moscow that made it extremely difficult for Russians, who live only two to three hours from the Zemo Larsi, to get a Georgian visa.

"The people who live in these republics of the North Caucasus had to go all the way to Moscow to the Swiss Embassy [which handles Georgian interests in Russia] to receive a Georgian visa," Manjgaladze says.

Restricted Visas

To be sure, the decree does not signal improved relations between Tbilisi and the Kremlin. A statement from the Georgian Interior Ministry about the lifting of visa requirements reflects ongoing tensions between the two countries. It says residents of the North Caucasus can now travel to Georgia "to do business, receive an education, and to rest and enjoy all the good things that they are deprived of in their own country -- which is run by a corrupt and repressive federal regime."

Nugzar Tsiklauri, chairman of the Georgian Parliament's Committee on Relations With Compatriots Residing Abroad, says the decree was necessary because of Russia's record on human rights in North Caucasus republics like North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Daghestan.

"There are massive violations of human rights and there are killings of journalists [in the North Caucasus]," Tsiklauri says. "Human rights activists have gone missing or are being killed."

Tsiklauri adds, "In this situation, the historical obligation of Georgia is to focus on the North Caucasus and help in all ways possible the people with whom we have lived alongside for centuries."

Unclear Limits On Both Sides

Kremlin officials have responded angrily to Saakashvili's decree -- describing the move as a "provocation" and an "attempt to divide Russia's population into different categories."

Andrei Nesterenko, a spokesman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, says the decree will "create obstacles to contacts between our citizens."

"Russia consistently stands for improving neighborly relations in the Caucasus and building a normal, calm life, which Mr. Saakashvili tried to disrupt by unleashing war in August 2008," Nesterenko adds.

Nesterenko says Russia has no problem with Georgia or the Georgian people. He says poor relations between the two countries are the result of "a problem with the regime" of Saakashvili, adding, "Mr. Saakashvili tried to disrupt [neighborly relations] by unleashing war in August 2008."

He also describes Saakashvili's actions as "spastic" and "aimed to cause more annoyances" that "only cause more problems for Georgian citizens.

Residents of Stepantsminda, a town near the Georgia-Russia border.
Some Georgian opposition politicians are also questioning the wisdom of the move.

Levan Vepkhvadze, deputy chairman of the Georgian parliament, has said the free movement of Ossetians across the border could facilitate the "creeping annexation" of Georgian territory that is claimed by some North Ossetian groups.

Former Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze has warned that abolishing the visa requirement could have disastrous consequences for Georgia. She says Russian border guards may not permit Russian citizens without a valid Georgian visa to leave the Russian Federation through the Zemo Larsi checkpoint. She also wonders if the decree will give Moscow an additional pretext to accuse Georgia of harboring "terrorist groups" from the North Caucasus.

Some North Caucasus political figures also are questioning the political implications of Saakashvili's decree, suggesting it is an attempt to exploit anti-Russian sentiments in the North Caucasus.

Boris Ebzeyev, president of Karachay-Cherkessia since 2008, says Saakashvili's decree reflects "the death throes of a regime trying at all costs to restore its irrevocably tarnished luster."

Colonel-General Arkady Yedelev, deputy head of the North Caucasus Federal District, says Saakashvili should have discussed the lifting of visa requirements with Moscow instead of issuing a decree "on a whim."

A Trickle Of Traffic

But that's not how Georgian residents near the border crossing feel.

Dodo Gomiashvili, an elderly Georgian woman who operates a kiosk close to the Zemo Larsi crossing, says Moscow should respond by also lifting visa requirements for Georgians so that she can visit her relatives in North Ossetia.

"There are many of us here who have sisters, brothers and cousins on the other side," Gomiashvili explains.

RFE/RL correspondents have visited the Zemo Larsi crossing since the decree took effect a week ago. They report only a trickle of traffic passing through the border.

That's not enough to bring the new jobs desired by unemployed Georgians in the region.

"This measure isn't bringing us anything good," 31-year-old Giorgi Khutsishvili attests. "I'm working in my garden doing whatever I can to help my family survive so we don't starve this winter."

Khutsishvili says he would be happy if Russia would lift his visa requirements so he can cross into neighboring North Ossetia to sell his vegetables and other products from Georgia.

David Chaganava of RFE/RL's Georgian Service contributed to this story from Stepantsminda
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: J from: US
October 21, 2010 01:43
>Pitskhelauri says she hasn't been able to visit her sister for 11 years.
I don't buy this- 11 years. I just don't. The problem with these peasants is that at times they lie.
In Response

by: Rasto from: London
October 21, 2010 10:18
Maybe she has not been because at the times when Russian embassy had been issuing visa in Tbilisi she did not have enough money to travel to Tbilisi and pay visa fee.

by: Mamuka
October 21, 2010 15:37
I was recently in Stepantsminda (Kazbegi) and I saw several cars with Russian license plates. Some people were able to cross somehow. Also, there was a story on about a marshrutka that runs from Tbilisi to Vladikavkaz. I think the border can be crossed, but who knows how they do it.

Plus there were Armenian and Ukrainian trucks traveling along that road. Which was amazing just that they could get their huge Kamaz tractor-trailers along that road, mostly it is in good shape but there are a few places where you are lucky to get by in a Niva.

Finally, I dont think that Georgian post (the one on the picture) is right on the border. There is another Russian post down the road maybe 2-3 km.
In Response

by: PP from: sw
October 27, 2010 13:18
Well, Armenians don't need a visa to get to russia. Neither do they need a visa to Georgia. So crossing the Georgia-Russia border is no problem for them!
How may you see that this contradicts with the article text? It doesn't.

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
October 21, 2010 19:18
Georgia should reconcile with Russia just as Armenia needs to reconcile with Turkey.

That's a huge problem that Caucasian countries feel better in state of confrontation that in state of reconciliation.
They love closed or impossible to cross borders. They do not feel the word of time: freedom ov movement. What happens in the United Europe.

Georgia should improve its relation with Russia for benefiting its own population. Just like Armenia should improve its relation with Turkey also to benefit its population.

When will come the time when borders in the Caucasus will be as easy to cross as in Europe?
(I mean not Schengen just a normal European border for example between Serbia and Macedonia at least)
In Response

by: Rasto from: London
October 22, 2010 10:54
On what basis you are saying that Georgia love closed or impossible to cross borders? As far as I am aware Georgia does not impose visa regime on any of their neighbours now including Russian Caucasus. Simmilar situation is in relation with all EU countries, US and Canada and all Post soviet countries. Georgia does not impose visa regime on countries such as Iran. Therefore your comments is hardly understandable to me.
On your call to reconcile with Russia. Please dig to the very recent history and learn that there is very fine division between arrongance filled status of confrontation and self right for existence out of bigger neighbour sfere of interest or even being the neighbourgh vasal. You and I are lucky ones that in 1989 -1991 it was whole collapse of communisctic block that enabled our countries to get out of the Russian influence. Why than Georgian citizens do not have that right as well?
In Response

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
October 23, 2010 12:50
"get out of Russian influence"?

I am extremly bored to hear always these words: "sphere of influence"...

What do you mean under these words? What does it mean to be "under Russian influence"?

Will Russia tell what to do? Will Russia appoint your government, president or prime minister?

Maintaining a normal relationship with your neighbour does not mean that you become a vassal state.

Let's have a look at Armenia. Armenia maintains a normal relationship with Russia. Do you think that Armenia is a vassal state of Russia?
Does Russia tell Armenia what to do?
Does Russia interfere Armenian politics?
Does Russia intervene into Armenian internal affairs?

No. They just maintain a normal but close relationship.

I do not propose Georgia to maintain as close relationship with Russia as Armenia does but there is a certain difference between a normal relationship and attacking Russian soldiers in South-Ossetia...

After the Georgian step to change the status quo militarily it is absolutely understandable that Russia considers Georgia as its enemy.

Georgian leaders should start negotiations with Russian leadership in order to normalize their relationship.

Their first step could be some sport-diplomacy contact what Armenians and Turks did recently.
In Response

by: Andrew from: Auckland
October 24, 2010 08:45
Zoltan, once again you show your bias and ignorance.

One of the main reasons for Russian anger at Georgia was that prior to the Saakashvili government being elected in 2004 after Scheverdnadze was overthrown, was that the Georgians stopped the previous system where the Georgian defence and interior ministers were appointed by Russia.

The other reason is that along with the Baltic republics, the Georgians were responsible for the collapse of the USSR, the evil empire of Russia.

Today in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia the Russians appoint the majority of government positions, and for example the current PM of South Ossetia is a Russian with no connection to the province, the defence minister of Abkhazia is a Russian military officer.

Russia has huge influence on decisions made in Armenia, Russia frequently interferes in the internal affairs of its neighbors.

"Russia provides Armenia with essentials like food and energy, and has recently promised to give Yerevan a “stabilization loan” of $500 million to help it cope with the recession. But this help, of course, does not come without strings attached. Russia has more than 5,000 troops stationed in Armenia and has been discussing deploying even more as part of its Collective Security Treaty Organization rapid-reaction force. Russia uses Armenia to project power in the region and to flank pro-Western Georgia, with which Russia fought a war in August 2008.

This Russian aid has cost Armenia dearly, as Yerevan has had to sacrifice much of its independence in exchange for assistance from Moscow. Russia essentially owns all of the strategic energy, rail and telecommunications assets (among many others) in Armenia. Moscow has consolidated its influence by taking control of any piece of infrastructure that could help Armenia break away from Russia’s grip, including a natural gas pipeline connecting the country to Iran."

As for "Georgia attacking Russian troops", what, the same "Peace keeping" troops who supplied separatists with the weapons that they used to bombard Georgian villages in the several weeks prior to the Georgians retaliating?

We all know from your asinine posts that you are nostalgic for Russian imperial rule in eastern Europe, but thank God most eastern Europeans have a far more realistic idea of what Russia is like than you.
In Response

by: Andrew from: Auckland
October 24, 2010 09:07
"As Turkey’s leaders declared that opening the border and establishing diplomatic relations with Armenia would depend on the return of territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani control, Armenia’s ability to maneuver and act more independently from Russia diminished. Statements made by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in January 2010, during the negotiations with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Moscow, and in June 2010, during a working meeting with Erdoğan in Istanbul, showed that any principal decision on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue would be made in Moscow, not in Yerevan. The signing of the Russo-Armenian agreement to extend Russia’s military presence during President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Armenia in August became the logical conclusion.

It should be noted, however, that in spite of the official propaganda, that agreement has not been met with widespread optimism in Armenia. Quite the contrary, there has been an increasing awareness that de facto rejection of a compromise through negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and the prolongation of Russian military presence will seriously obstruct the political and economic development of Armenia. A few days before President Medvedev’s visit, the Russian base in Armenia had been included in Russia’s Yug (South) military district, together with Russian bases in the North Caucasus, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. That caused the concern about the possible deterioration of Armenia’s relations with Georgia, as the latter is the main (if not the only) target of the Yug military district. Finally, there is now a common understanding in Armenia that in case of resumed large-scale fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh Russian troops will not provide any assistance, and that such fighting would be, to a large extent, a result of Russian policy for keeping the status quo. Russia’s recent decision to sell S-300PMU-2 long-range surface-to-air missile systems to Azerbaijan is viewed by the Armenian public as an openly hostile move against Armenia, as Russia may benefit not only from keeping the status quo but from resumed fighting as well."

by Armen Grigoryan
In Response

by: Andrew from: Auckland
October 24, 2010 09:10
Virtually the entire Armenian energy sector is under Russian control, following the transfer last year of the management of Armenia's critical nuclear power plant, and six hydroelectric plants, to UES as part of a broad equity-for-debt deal. Armenia receives its natural gas from Russia via Armrusgazprom, which is 45 percent owned by Gazprom. Rostelecom is a possible buyer of Armenia's telephone monopoly. Russian financial institutions, often under ethnic Armenian management, are slowly moving into Armenia's banking and insurance sectors. And with Russia one of Armenia's largest trade partners, the health of the Armenian economy is closely linked to that of Russia's, as the slowdown following the 1998 financial crisis demonstrated.

Russia is the gray cardinal of the Armenian political scene, in contrast to the meager influence it exerts on domestic politics in most other CIS countries, with the exception of Georgia, Moldova and Belarus. Prior to Armenia's February 2003 presidential election, President Robert Kocharyan made a pilgrimage to Moscow to receive the blessing of President Vladimir Putin; some analysts viewed the transfer of Armenia's energy assets to Russia as a quid pro quo for Putin's continued support.

Indeed, the Armenian government is highly vulnerable to any disruption -- inadvertent or otherwise -- of the flow of energy resources from Russia, and works hard to stay in the good graces of the Kremlin.

The close links between powerful members of the Armenian diaspora in Russia and Putin spurred rumors recently that Putin, now freed from the distraction of getting re-elected, might become more involved in Armenia's domestic political scene to solidify Russia's position in Armenia. In the meantime, Kocharyan seems to be taking a page out of Putin's handbook on authoritarianism, tightening the state's grip on the media, stifling dissent and otherwise trying to limit the scope for the evolution of a credible opposition.

Armenia's official foreign policy is to foster amicable relations without picking favorites -- a rational policy for a small, isolated nation flanked by unfriendly neighbors in an unstable region. Armenia leverages the political clout of the Armenian diaspora in the United States and, to a lesser degree, the European Union, to win governmental aid and assistance. It also hedges its military bets by participating in NATO Partnership for Peace exercises and lending quiet support to the American war on terror.

U.S. and EU concerns in the region are focused on the politics of oil and pipelines in Azerbaijan and the Caspian area more generally -- with changes in Georgia now also jockeying for the limited attention that the West allots to the Caucasus. Meanwhile, efforts to deepen relations with southern neighbor Iran (such as through the construction of a natural gas pipeline) receive frosty glares from the West and a mixed reception from Russia.

Russia is home to roughly 1.8 million Armenians -- compared with the official, and inflated, figure of 3.2 million inhabitants of Armenia proper -- who send home remittances of roughly $110 million every year (equivalent to 4 percent of GDP), according to the Armenian Foreign Ministry. Not surprisingly, there is no stigma attached to speaking Russian in Armenia, unlike elsewhere in the former Soviet bloc.

Armenian dependence on Russia is steadily deepening, binding Armenia's future -- for better or for worse -- all the more tightly to Russia. And as Russian influence in the CIS continues to erode, its role in Armenia serves as a pleasant, if Lilliputian, reminder of what it once had.

- Kim Iskyan, a freelance journalist and consultant based in Yerevan, Armenia, contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
October 24, 2010 19:22
Certainly you can brand me as 'pro-Russian' but the fact is that I am much more a 'pro-engagement' person. Unlike those - like you for example - who stil pursue the old and outdated cold war style and thinking...

The cold war have ended and we should understand that the world operates totally differently now. While the USSR was truly the enemy of the West present day Russia is definitely not an enemy.

You blame only the Russians but why don't you try at least once to see the last two decades through their eye?

The USSR have ceased to exist the West have won the cold war. After that the West tried from the first day to utilize its winning position to defeat Russia and make them unable to regain their strength ever again.

Unlike after the WWII when the west began to treat Germany and Japan as its allies after the cold war the West did not considered Russia as its potential ally but still viewed them as their potential enemy.

The NATO begin to expand towards Russian borders but without any pledge that Russia can also join the bloc. Tell me if the West didn't view Russia as its enemy than why didn't we invited them to join?

The answer: the West definitely viewed Russia still as an enemy who should be controlled and prevented to regain influence.

Then it was the Kosovo affair. Russia protested again the intervention (what I support) but the West didn't care about Russian complaints even a minute.
So Russia learned that the West is not its ally and westerners do not care about her.

Then the Georgian and Ukrainian case only further strengthened the fears of Russia. The West began to speak about a future enlargement of NATO but still without mentioning that they wait for Russia.
Tell me what else could be the message in Moscow if your former enemy invites your close neighbours into its military block but keeps you out?
If NATO is not directed against Russia than why don't we invite Russia as well? Or if we do not invite Russia then why do we invite Ukraine and Georgia?
These moves can not be viewed as anything but provocation against Russia.

Russian suspiciousness against the West is only the mirror what the West did against Russia. The way Russia treats the West is the result of how we treated Russia after 1990.

So if you think the way you do then you will never be able to step forward and begin a new phase in the relationship between Russia and the West.

There is a certain need for trust building. The invitation for Russai to join the missile shield program is a good beginning. The second step could be a joint solution for the Transdniester conflict with a joint Russian-Western peacekeeping force.

After that together we can try to solve the Karabakh issue applying also a multinational force including Russians and western forces.

And only after such progress we can begin to solve the issue of Abkhazia and South-Ossetia. Because these two territories represent Russia no value. They will be ready to bargain them as soon as they can get something in exchange.

And this price can be the cooperative behavior of the West. If we begin to treat Russia as an equal after 20 years she will be happily ready to offset.

This can already be seen. As a result of the improving relations with the USA they refused to supply Iran S-300 missiles.

If Russia can choose between maintaining friendship with rogue states or the West she will definitely choose the West.
The fact that she keeps contacts with them is the result of western negligence We never offered Russia a friendly hand.

Your thinking my friend is sticked to the cold war era. We should move forward. Hopefully President Obama does exactly this.
In Response

by: Rasto from: London
October 25, 2010 07:58
Armania is a country where in pre Ruso _ Georgian war, Russians invested heavily 75 % of all foreign investments in Armenia are comming from Russia with Russian management deployed in Armenia and Russian interest. There is no way Armenia will have a hcnace ti get out of that grip in next 100 years.
Whatr does it mean to be out fo Russian influence. It means that country has aright to say we want to be a member of the EU and NATO. In last 20 years Russian politicians were constantly threatening every Georgian leaders with ethnic conflict if they decide to move towards west. They DO NOT WANT To have more borders with NATO and EU countries. Being in Russian influence means not even no NATO no EU membership for Georgia, but not even aspirations or close relations with these organisations. Political system in Russia cannnot offer any improvemnets to Georgia. If Georgia decide to stay under Russian influence there will bo no chance for parliamentary democration or free elections. With EU aspiration there is at least chance for that. Have you ever been to countries under Russian influence in last 2 years. Have you ever been to Armenia, Azerbaijan or Centrak Asia? Or you are just making up some friendship neighbourgh countries theories.
In Response

by: Rasto from: London
November 02, 2010 13:15
The problem is that Georgian wines are falsified and these are of course of bad quality. Some as produced by Telliani Valey are excellent, Spanish and Chilean wines however never offer such a full flavour as Georgian ones. The price difference between Georgian and Spanish wines is caused mainly by size of production facilities. While Georgian production units are sort of small family based - sort equivalent of organic local production, Spanish production is mega intensive automatic factory size.
Andrew Chinese rice hulk alcohol is really disgusting. Please do not even mention it here. Kindzmarauli and Saperavi wines from Telliani Valley are my favourite. Except Telliani Valey I reccommend Mildiani family wines
In Response

by: Rasto from: London
October 25, 2010 08:06
I cannot believe what are you writing Georgian and Ukraininan case brought more feaer to Russia. Are you serious? Are you defending Russia for their regional teritorial interests their imperilaistic foreign policy? According that you are pitying poor Russinas whio had to gave up Central and Eaatern Europe including your country. Do you wish your country stayed a socialistic country under Russians? Because what you wrote seems like you are justyfying Russians ambitions to influence foreign politics of these two countries and deciding over the destiny of inhabitans of these two countries. I cannot believe that someone who can remember anti Russian Hungarian uprising in 1956 and occupation can write something like that.
In Response

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
October 25, 2010 20:56
Rasto, don't mix history with today's politics and also don't mix your emotions with everyday business.

Georgia lies in the Caucasus right next to Russia but extremly far from Europe not to mention the USA. If Georgia wants a prosperous economy than they can not depend on the US nor on the EU. They are and remain the neighbour of Russia whether they like it or not.

So if you want to trade and if you want to provide jobs for your people than you have no other choice but to reconcile with Russia the biggest purchaser of Georgian goods.
This is the simple economical fact. Georgia looses much more on the Russian economic 'embargo'. National pride worth nothing if you have no job...

Georgia badly needs the Russian market.

In Hungary we understand this clearly. History is one thing and business is another. We need Russia as a market and we also need Russia as an energy supplier. We maintain a fairly good relation with Russia and this pays off every day... :)

To reply about 1956. Hungary was under Ottoman Turkish occupation for 150 years but today nobody talks about Turkey as an enemy of Hungary.

1956. is also history and has nothing to do with today's politics.

This mentality prevents stepping forward. If leaders of France would think like you than the French-German reconciliation would have never taken place...
In Response

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
October 25, 2010 21:00
One more thing. Every country tries to influence politics of other countries.

Just have a llok at the USA. One can not mention any country more eager to influence other countries...

Or we can take Romania who tries to influence politics in Moldova. Or Poland tries to influence politics in Belarus or in Ukraine. Or France tries to influence politics in its former colonies in Africa.

Why is it acceptable if it is done by the US or France but unacceptable if it is attempted by Russia?

Double standard...
In Response

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
October 25, 2010 21:08
" I cannot believe what are you writing Georgian and Ukraininan case brought more feaer to Russia. Are you serious? Are you defending Russia for their regional teritorial interests their imperilaistic foreign policy? "

Do you remember the Cuba missile crisis in 1962?

Then the USSR tried to deploy its military hardware close to US borders. It almost provoked nuclear confrontation.

What is the difference between USSR missiles in Cuba or NATO troops in Ukraine and Georgia?

If we understand US fears about Soviet military presence than why don't we understand Russian fears about unfriendly NATO troops in Ukraine and Georgia?

Double standard again...

If Russia would be offered NATO membership then they would not oppose NATO expasion. But they were excluded. Because NATO was and still is an organization directed against Russia.

And leaders in Moscow clearly knew this.

We should invite Russia into NATO! Let's finish the cold war.
In Response

by: Rasto from: London
October 27, 2010 19:41
Ad Georgians need Russian market. - Georgians have lost Russian markets in 2006. Since than they have converted lot of exports to the EU and other narkets. I am taklking about major agri axporting articles such as wine, mineral waters, citruses and hazelnuts. Georgian goods are still available in Moscow reimported from Belarus or Kazakhstan. The trade between Georgia and former Soviet space is not closed at all. I was in Kazakhstan month ago and Georgian wines in shops caount for 30 - 40 % of all offer not mentioning that China is the largest importer of Georgian wines. Companies such as Teliani Valley that were rebuilt with EU investments are exporting to 30 countries. Georgia introduced 12 % flat tax -lowest in the EE which attracted some investors such as Marks and Spencer to move their prodution capacities there. Port Poti is being rebuilt into free trade zone. I can however admit that for such a small country as Georgia Russian market would be a bonus.
Ad NATO Troops in Georgia and UKraine - except trainers there are no NATO trooops in any of these countries no NATO army bases or armour.
Ad Georgia being EXTREMELY far away from EU. Despite of the certain Geographical distance from EU - across the Black sea :). I still believe that Georgians have a right to choose and develop good relation with EU without being threatened or bullyied. Again POlitically Russia cannot offer to Georgia any progress, nothing, nada, nicht, necevo, that would made life of ordinary Georgians more bearable. Contrary to that buidling up relations with the EU makes visa regime more easier, which is thing you were vehemently promoting in one of your previous comments.
On the top of that I read today that even HUngarian government expressed its support to Turkey's accession to the EU :) so situation might be differrent in 10-15 years. I still think that Georgians do have a right of choice and not blindly follow orders from stronger neighbourgs. Today I read about Mr. Lavrov threathening NATO again against expansion in CEEC which includes Georgia. This is not a history this is current reality. Russian imperialistic cramped grip in Caucasus will keep these countries backward.
In Response

by: J from: US
October 31, 2010 14:14
Georgian wines are mediocre at best. The countries you mention import them because they don't know much about wine, that's all.
In Response

by: Andrew from: Auckland
November 01, 2010 08:04
@ J

Actually Georgian wines are quite well regarded in the international wine making community, and regularly receive international awards for excellence.

Russian wines on the other hand, are notoriously bad.

BTW, saying that countries in Western Europe that import Georgian wine don't know much about wine is pretty pathetic, but normal for your posts.

As for the Chinese, well they have been making their own grape wine for about 4,000 years. Admittedly not long when compared to the Georgians wine making history of over 8,000 years. The Chinese certainly have good taste when it comes to wine.

As usual your comments are full of the typical racism of the Russian or Russophile poster.

For those of you who want to try Georgian wines, I recommend Telani Valley's, Khindzmarauli, Bagrationi champagne, and there are a whole range of wines to try.
In Response

by: J from: US
November 01, 2010 12:38
I have nothing against Georgian wines, calm down. You can buy them here in Russian stores; I am just saying that at that price ($15/bottle) they are significantly overvalued. You can find a Spanish or Chilean wine of comparable quality for only $6. Chinese 'wine' is another dud, I have tried it btw. I am unaware of Russian wine, what would it be made of if grapes don't grow there. Maybe canned grape juice?
In Response

by: Andrew from: Auckland
November 02, 2010 06:03
J, when you say Georgian wines are mediocre at best and those buying them have no knowledge of wine you are displaying both ignorance and the all too typical racism of the Russians.

BTW, Russia has a domestic wine industry based mainly in the north Caucasus and southern Russia, in Dagestan, Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria, Krasnodar Krai, Rostov, and Stavropol Krai. So much for "grapes don't grow there"

Of course Georgian wine is much better than the Russian produced variety.

BTW, given your ignorance you have probably only tried Chinese or Korean rice wine. Their grape variety can be quite good.
In Response

by: J from: US
November 03, 2010 12:32
Thanks- will look for the wines you mention.
In Response

by: Rasto from: London
October 25, 2010 11:37
I forgot to answer 5 of your questions on Armenia posted below my early reaction to your contribution.
Q No1. answer is No.
Q No2 -4 answer is Yes
Q No 5. - answer is Partially

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
October 24, 2010 19:32
One more thing. The aliance between Armenia and Russia is muc more in the interest of Armenia.

As the only guarantor of Armenian security is Russia. Azerbaijan quickly builds up its military which is aimed against Armenia. To offset Azeri superiority Armenia have chosen to find a strong friend: Russia.

Russia standing by Armenia prevents any Azeri attempts to solve the Karabakh issue militarily. Azerbaijan can be strong but they will never be comparable to Russian military power. Because everybody learned the Georgian lesson: Russia is the biggest player in the region.

Also the Georgian adventure was the force wgich moved Armenia closer to Russia. Armenia tried to build closer relation with the West, the NATO and the USA. But the example of Georgia have proved one thing clearly: in a crisis situation the West will not help you. The USA left Georgia alone.

So Armenians learned that they should not depend on Western military support. The only remaining player: Russia.

Moreover even the existence of present day Armenia is thank to Russia who saved Armenians to be exterminated by Turks. So the frienship of Armenians and Russians dates back a lot.

So I don't think that Armenia is a vassal state of Russia. They only pursue realpolitiks and chose a reliable ally.

Armenia wins much more on this business than Russia.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
November 15, 2010 20:41
J is quite smart - are Kazbegi's noblemen peasants and liers?
Varangians and Cossacks known all too well, nowbody is a "frier"!
Demanding more blackmail money for Moscow, Rasto from Russia,
Expanding and stealing, as did "Imperial" Varangians and Prushians?

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
November 16, 2010 08:22
Zoltan, your "buhgaltery" is like proffit counting,
Where doesn't matter how Russia is expanding,
You compare Georgia and Urartu as two countries,
While first is the Caucasian World, second is a booty.

Booty of Russia that still use Urartu to be a stumble block
In Caucasian regional Common Wealth, as Turkey talks
Are sabotaged by Russia, looking South with intrigue
In faces and expanding through genocide as pigs.

Look at my site at the pictures, where appetite of Russia and the heart of Human Civilization are self evident...

Georgia and other former USSR republics offered to Russia to reconcile since 1980th-1990th, but Russia responded by blockades, aggressions and genocide.
I hoped that Russia would restore order over the "Third Force" of nazi imperial resurectors that plotted it since 1954-56, when Spetcnaz, KGB andf GRU would be reeorganized by Eltcin's Russia.
It appeared that Russia was never quite Eltcin's and now it go even further, annexing territories of neighboring countries they invaded and preparing for more...

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
November 16, 2010 22:55
Zoltan, if you are really from Hungary, remember 1956?
Why are you always following Russia's party line and fix
Things for expanding Russia? What will Hungary gain?

Russia explicitly told their goals to all in former USSR,
Starting with Georgia, to kill third of them, another third
To die in labour death camps, the rest behind the bars
Of Russian Treblinkas and Anaverde to be plagiarized,
Stink at them nerve gas - to brake and make them bow.

Something like that Russia intended do to Hungarians,
In 1956, sailing about 200,000, the best, to USA plagio,
But under Western pressure - for Germany and Austria,
Didn't go that far - is it why Zoltan is a Russian "Borgio",
Helps Russia and GermanoAustria imperio-resurectio?

Armenia is vassal, under Urartian "Anychars"occupation
That is backed-up by Russia, which dictate to them both.
Russia stambling Urartu-Turkey-Azerbaijan negotiations,
Using them and GRU's "terrorists" - prevent regional CIS.

Georgia offered to Russia relationship better than before,
But Russia started blockade, invaded Georgia's Abkhazia,
With genocide, cleansed and closed for Georgians doors.
If Russia wants have good relationship - their bitchy "Vors"
Must return everything, be tried and repare damages done.

What offered imperial resurectors to Zoltan - Transilvania?
Georgians didn't attack, Russians invading since 1954-56!
Read about it on "www.WorldFreedomAndTruth.ifo" - Ivans!
If it is about "World Security" as the Alexander Kartvely done,
Why imperial resurectors risk it, waiting Zoltan to lie and fix?


by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
November 18, 2010 19:43
Some remarks, Andrew:

Not only Georgians - all USSR wanted to be free and live in dignity,
it is just that Georgia and Baltics were a bit more prepared for independence
at the time -
USSR didn't collapse - Preamble to 1936 Constitution required
transformation of USSR back into better CIS (legally and morally) than it was before 1936.

The Evil Empire was comming from about half of ethnic Russian population
in Rusia and most of their nationals in once occupied by them CIS countries.

It is they were responsible for conspiraces to stretch Eastern Europe before Nazi Germany as plathdarm for conquering USSR and restore Evil Russian Empire, sabotage, purges, golodomors and killings of Georgians, Jews,
Poles, Ukrainians and many others, desarming of soviet armies and so on...

It is they that at the end of WW2 were destroying non-Russian military units, including one Ukrainian and one Polish army at the river Doneth...
It is they that sabotaged transformation into CIS after WW2, puting Stalin
under arrest and incommunicado in Spring of 1947 and starting to role back progress in such transformation since 1949, turning USSR into an
Evil Russian-Soviet Empire, accompanied by Babilon of Quislings and
attempted totally inslave non-Russian nations and better half of Russians...

In 1954-56 Russians of German extraction and Russia made secret oral pact with the British Royals and Bechtel family to restore colonial empires and destroy non-Russian nations, also formerly occupied Poland, Finland and
some other Eastern European countries.
Bechtel provided enrichment plants for ethnic Russia to threaten and to bomb with A-bomb the resisting nations in former USSR - they use it now to expand Russia!

Since 1954-56 Russians, not unlike General Boldyrev, where organizing rape
of non-Russian girls and women, including Osetins, even a doughter of one
of officers in Boldyrev's stationed city, - turning them and their half-Russian children into snitches and spies of Russian invading armies in Georgia and
all over CIS - now they appointing some of them among Russian Gauliters,
as a pseudo-justification of a laughable representation of Georgians of South Ocetin extraction, Abkhazians from Gudauta and so on...

By the way, I heard that to use nerve gas "Cheremushka" on most brilliant and resisting nations (to change geneticly Georgians and other proud people into crolling before Russian and German occupiers slaves) was contributed to Russia by family of "Gannibal" - my old enemies of half Varangian half
Prussian extraction from Moscow that since 1946, when I was 3, ingected
me vith TB viruses, poison with Arsenic and conducted many assassination attemt, killed my old Grandfather, followed us to USA and already killed some people here...


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