Tensions Flare in Georgia as Direct Flights Resume With Russia

As passengers on the first direct flight from Russia to Georgia in more than three years disembarked on Friday, they were met by protesters cursing their arrival.

Shouts of “Why did you come here? Your country is an occupier!” echoed through the arrivals hall at Tbilisi International Airport. Outside, a crowd of about 200 hundred demonstrators unfurled a banner saying “You are not welcome.”

“I am only here for a vacation,” one passenger replied, running away from a media throng that had gathered to meet the flight.

Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, and it wields military control over 20 percent of its territory. Graffiti that says “Russians go home” is commonplace in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. A determination to join NATO is enshrined in the former Soviet republic’s Constitution.

But with the arrival of Azimuth Airlines Flight A4851 from Moscow on Friday, the tiny country of Georgia in the Caucasus Mountains took a major step toward building closer ties with Moscow….

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This article was written by Ivan Nechepurenko and originally published on www.nytimes.com