October 3, 2023

Ukraine conflict: Georgia will become a hub between Russia and Europe

With flights between Russia and Georgia now possible again, Tbilisi should become the hub between the two regions – with coordinated flight schedules and no long waiting times. Not everyone likes it.

It was a special flight: A Sukhoi Superjet 100 operated by Russia’s Azimuth Airline landed at the airport in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, on May 19. This was the first flight from Russia since 2019. Because the Kremlin imposed a ban on flights between the two countries in 2019 due to anti-Russian rallies in Tbilisi. Not until May 2023 did Vladimir Putin lift the ban by decree and even introduced visa-free travel for Georgian citizens.

It could have been part of a larger plan. Because if the latest Russian plans have their way, then Georgia must become a center for the Russians in Europe. Until now, travelers had to use routes through countries like Turkey, Armenia or Serbia, since bans on flights since Russia’s attack on Ukraine made direct flights impossible.

Coordinated flight schedules

compared to Russian RBC business newspaper Vitaly Fantsev, co-owner of Azimuth Airlines and Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, said Tbilisi aims to become a passenger transit hub between Russia and Europe. In addition to Azimuth Airlines, Georgian Airlines has recently resumed flights between Russia and Georgia. Ukraine has put the airline on the sanctions list for this.

The Georgian airline announced in May that it intends to introduce transit flights from Russia to Europe. Cities such as Vienna, Milan, Paris, Thessaloniki and Larnaca are mentioned. According to Vantsev, both airlines plan to coordinate flight schedules so that transfer times will only be around an hour to an hour and a half.

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protests in Georgia

The resumption of flights with Russia sparked protests in Georgia. Demonstrators gathered at Tbilisi airport, in the parliament building and in front of the Georgian Airlines office. Pro-Western Georgians fear that Georgia’s long-awaited candidacy to join the European Union is in jeopardy.

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