TBILISI, DFWatch–The government in Georgia is coming under fire at home for not doing more after Gérard Depardieu violated Georgian law by visiting the breakaway region Abkhazia. The government says it will not react, as it does not consider it a serious violation.
The French actor Gérard Depardieu, who is now a citizen of Russia, visited occupied Abkhazia and according to local media was hosted by the de facto president, Alexander Ankvab. Depardieu noted that he is familiar with the war in Abkhazia and first heard about the region when he first met with Ankvab’s predecessor Sergey Baghabsh years ago in Saint Petersburg.
A law adopted by Georgia after the 2008 war with Russia says that a non-Georgian citizen who visits the ‘occupied territories’ without permission from Tbilisi will be punished under criminal law. The punishment is either a fine or from two to four years of deprivation of liberty. A person who has broken this rule will be detained when he or she enters Georgia. More than 300 persons have been charged under this law for the last five years.
No famous people are on this list, even though a few have come to Georgia after visiting these regions.
One of them is Russian musician Yuri Bashmet, who held a concert in Tbilisi on April 11. Groups demanded a reaction from the government, but it didn’t react.
According to a draft bill currently under review in parliament, a person who visits the ‘occupied territories’ illegally will only be fined the first time, but in case of repeated violations, they will be punished under criminal law.
The government’s opponents and former government officials have harshly criticized this draft, but the new government claims that ordinary people may know nothing about those regulations. The draft hasn’t been adopted yet.
The government does not plan to react to Gérard Depardieu’s visit to Sukhumi, even though it considers the visit a violation of law. That is what Keti Tsikhelashvili, Deputy Minister of Reintegration said in a TV interview.
She said Depardieu’s visit to Sukhumi cannot be considered serious.
“We know Gérard Depardieu is a Russian citizen and this visit has mainly been staged by Russia. He may be a good actor, but I doubt he knows a thing about what is happening in Abkhazia,” she said.
Constitutional expert Zurab Jibghashvili says that this statement is an example of double standards, which is indefensible.
“Then what did those ordinary people do who were punished and who maybe also knew nothing. Regulations must apply to him just like it does to the others,” Jibghashvili said.