Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday took a step toward cooling tensions with Georgia, rejecting calls for trade restrictions.
Relations between the two neighbors dipped to a new low last month following violent protests in the Georgian capital sparked by a Russian lawmaker’s appearance at the country’s parliament. Putin promptly banned direct flights between the two countries, citing security concerns for Russian holidaymakers.
Tensions escalated further on Sunday when a host on Georgia’s independent Rustavi 2 television station unleashed a stream of profanities about Putin and his parents in a live broadcast.
Georgian officials quickly denounced the rant, describing it as another attempt by the opposition to deepen the rift with Moscow, but the Russian State Duma voted earlier on Tuesday to urge the government to consider trade restrictions against Georgia in response to the TV rant.
Putin, however, showed willingness to alleviate the crisis, saying that he opposes the proposed restrictions.
“I wouldn’t do it out of my respect for the Georgian nation,” Putin said in televised remarks. “For the sake of restoring our ties, I wouldn’t do anything to hurt our relations.”
He dismissed the Georgian TV host as “some scumbag” who should not be taken seriously.
Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2008, after which Russia recognized the independence of two of Georgia’s breakaway republics. Georgia in recent years has hosted more than 1 million Russian travelers a year, enjoying the lush seaside or the green mountains despite Georgia’s animosity toward the Kremlin and its policies.
Russian politicians earlier this week called for a ban on Georgian wine and mineral water exports — a measure Russia last imposed in 2006 following another political spat. The ban was lifted six years later.q