TBILISI, DFWatch – Russia offers Georgia visa-free travel and to restore diplomatic relations, but not without conditions.

The Russian foreign ministry says in a statement on its website that Georgia first must create a ‘reliable legal environment’ that can guarantee the security of Russians who are visiting.

The background for this is a Georgian law which makes it a crime to cross the border between Russia and the two breakaway republics Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Because of this, many Russians who come to Georgia will automatically be subject to prosecution upon arrival.

“In this regard, it should be borne in mind that due to rupture of the Georgian side of diplomatic relations with Russia, our ability to consular and legal protection of our citizens in trouble in Georgia, is extremely limited,” the Russian foreign ministry writes.

The ministry says it supports having a humanitarian dialogue between peoples of the two countries, but criticizes what it calls the Georgian leadership’s ‘military adventurism’ in August 2008, and says Georgia undermined such ties by breaking off diplomatic relations as a reaction to Russia recognizing the breakaway republics.

This comes as a response to Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili’s statement in his state of the nation speech in parliament on February 28, when he said he is ready to unilaterally waive visa requirements for Russians.

Georgia’s foreign ministry responded to the Russian offer by setting its own terms in return.

“Any kind of dialogue between the two states can only be held within the frames of mutual respect and universally recognized principles. Accordingly, we are ready to start a discussion about the restoration of diplomatic relations with Russia, renew the dialog, when Russia will show us that is really ready to take effective steps and show that the initiative expressed by them is really based on honest grounds, will start the de-occupation process and take Russian troops out of Georgia and will reject their illegal decision about recognizing the Georgian territories,” the Georgian foreign ministry responded. (Photo: Mikhail Evstafiev.)