Georgian Ombudsman: Russians Face No Obstacles in Georgia

Georgian Public Defender, Nino Lomjaria, says Russian citizens can visit Georgia with confidence and peace and have an equal opportunity to enjoy all the services the country offers, facing no obstacles to doing so.

The Ombudsman made the statement in response to her Russian counterpart, Tatiana Moskalkova, who addressed Lomjaria and asked her to help protect the rights of Russian citizens in Georgia following large-scale protests launched in the capital Tbilisi on June 20.

Moskalkova claimed the crew of the Russian TV Channel Rossia 24 was attacked by nationalists and thousands of Russian tourists were forced to return to their homeland.

The Russian Ombudsman also claimed that the rights of the Russian delegation and its head Sergey Gavrilov were violated at the session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy that was disrupted in Tbilisi in the wake of the protests.

Moskalkova says that the "ongoing processes in Tbilisi are a source of deep concern."

In response to Moskalkova, Lomjaria says no citizen of Russia has yet appealed to the Georgian Public Defender’s Office about a violation of rights.

She noted that the only case made known to the Public Defender of Georgia so far is related to a single fact of alleged violence and interference in the professional activity of a Russian journalist. She highlighted that the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia has launched an investigation.

“Despite the Russian occupation, in recent years, no incident of violence against citizens of the Russian Federation has occurred. Georgia maintains the status of a safe country and there is no reason to change this reality,” she added.

Lomjaria underlined that she will protect the rights of all citizens regardless of their citizenship or nationality and will respond to each incident.

“Our goal is that the recent developments do not affect the rights of peaceful citizens on neither the territory of Georgia nor of the Russian Federation, and I hope that the Russian Federation's High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Tatiana Moskalkova, will also protect the rights of Georgian citizens on the territory of Russia and will not allow for their discrimination based on nationality or citizenship,” she added.

Before the appeal of the Russian Public Defender, the Russian Foreign Ministry also urged the Georgian authorities to ensure the security of Russian journalists and Russian citizens in Georgia.

The Russian MFA claims that a radical group attempted to attack Russian journalists in Tbilisi on June 22.

“An aggressive radical group attempted to attack the crew of Rossia 24 in Tbilisi. Prior to that, during the widespread disorder, representatives of local and international media were injured in the capital of Georgia. We demand the Georgian authorities ensure the security of Russian journalists and Russian citizens on the territory of the country. We expect a response from international organizations,” the Russian Foreign Ministry stated.

In response, the Georgian MFA said that amidst the protest rallies that have been taking place in Tbilisi over the past few days, the respective state agencies remain on alert to ensure public order and security in the country.

“Foreign visitors, journalists and tourists, including those from the Russian Federation, have faced no threat in the capital of Georgia. The police have already opened an investigation into a small incident involving the journalists of the Russian TV Company. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia has duly informed the international organizations, including the OSCE, on the steps taken by the government to ensure a secure environment amidst the latest developments in the country,” Official Tbilisi stated.

Mass-protests started in Tbilisi on June 20 with the Russian delegation’s presence at the session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO) in the parliament’s plenary chamber. Opposition lawmakers were outraged by the fact that Gavrilov addressed the event’s participants from the Parliament Speaker’s seat. In protest, they did not allow the IAO session to continue. Later, a decision was taken to wrap up the session and for the Russian delegation to leave the country.

The protesters imposed responsibility for the developments on the ruling party, and demanded the resignation of Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze, Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia and Head of the State Security Service Vakhtang Gomelauri. The Parliament Speaker resigned after the situation escalated.

At the time of going to print, the protests are ongoing. The demonstrators continue to demand the resignation of Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia for the police crackdown on the night of 20 July that left 240 people injured. They also ask for the release of those protesters who were detained during the dispersal of the rally and that the 2020 parliamentary elections be held with a proportional system, which the government agreed to on June 24, further stating that there would be a “zero election barrier.”

By Thea Morrison

Image source: Netgazeti

24 June 2019 17:44