Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected a parliamentary call to impose sanctions on Georgia, saying patching up strained relations was more important than reacting to provocations by "scumbags.”
Talking to reporters in St. Petersburg on July 9, Putin said he would stay away from "sanctions against Georgia out of respect for the Georgian people."
"For the sake of restoring full ties, I would not do anything to complicate our relations," Putin added.
In what appeared to be a reference to a crude verbal attack on him by a Georgian TV presenter, the Russian president said there was no point in taking seriously what he called the outbursts of "some scumbags."
Putin was speaking shortly after the Russian parliament unanimously backed a resolution urging the government to draw up economic sanctions on Georgia for his approval, a move that would have sharply escalated tensions between the two countries.
On July 7, Giorgi Gabunia, a host of a news-analysis program called Postscript on the Georgian opposition-run Rustavi-2 television channel, called Putin a "stinking occupier" and a "walrus c***" and vowed that he would defecate on Putin's grave.
Gabunia's tirade against Putin came at one of the most tense periods in relations between Russia and Georgia since they fought a five-day war in 2008.
Georgian authorities called Gabunia's move a "provocation" and Rustavi-2's headquarters were picketed by protesters, who demanded the journalist to publicly apologize and resign.
Gabunia was later suspended for two months.
"There are people in Georgia who are protesting against [Gabunia's tirade] and for their sake, for the sake of reviving full-fledged ties between Russia and Georgia, I would not undertake anything that could complicate relations,” Putin said.
Gabunia's public insults of Putin were broadcast just hours before Putin's decree banning direct flights between Russia and Georgia went into effect on July 8.
Georgian analysts say the flight ban could cost Georgia's economy up to $300 million a year.
Putin signed the flight ban order on June 21 in response to anti-Russia protests that broke out in Tbilisi.
Those protests were sparked by a Russian State Duma deputy who sat in the chair of Georgia's parliamentary speaker and addressed a gathering of lawmakers from predominantly Orthodox Christian countries.
More than 240 people were injured late on June 20 when Georgian riot police fired rubber bullets and water cannons to turn back crowds trying to storm the parliament.
Daily protests have continued since then by demonstrators who are demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia over the police crackdown.
Nearly 11 years after the war in which Russian forces occupied Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions, many Georgians still openly express anger and resentment at Russia.