The European Union’s 27 member states have lodged a formal complaint with the Georgian government over the resumption of air travel with Russia, which began on May 20, the privately-run Georgian television company Mtavari Arkhi reported on May 29.

The EU countries conveyed their position through Paweł Herczyński, the bloc’s ambassador to Georgia, during a meeting in Tbilisi with economy minister Levan Davitashvili. He stressed that the decision to approve direct flights with Russia contradicted the member states’ unanimous move last year to ban flights and close EU airspace to Russian aircraft.

The diplomat later told journalists: “We expressed concern that the decision to resume flights contradicts the EU’s decision to isolate Russia and increase pressure on Russia [following its invasion of Ukraine]. We were assured that sanctioned planes would not fly to Georgia.” Tbilisi’s decision “contradicts our determination to isolate Russia and put pressure on it to change its tactics when it comes to the brutal and aggressive war Russia continues to wage.”

Davitashvili commented that “an honest open dialogue” had taken place, adding: “We talked about the geopolitical situation. We spoke about the fact that the situation in Georgia cannot be discussed in the same context as the situation in other countries. Georgia has a particularly difficult situation with a direct border with the Russian Federation, and 20% of Georgian territory is occupied, so the context here is different from that of EU member states.”

As ch-aviation reported at the time, Azimuth (A4, Rostov Platov) operated the first flight between the two capitals on May 19, linking Moscow Vnukovo with Tbilisi using one of its SSJ 100/95s, followed by Georgian Airways (A9, Tbilisi) on May 20 with one of its two B737-700s. Red Wings Airlines (WZ, Moscow Domodedovo) has said it plans to start flights to Georgia in June.

The arrival of the first flight of the Russian carrier was greeted with a large protest outside the airport. While Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has been positive about Russia’s decision to lift visas for Georgians and resume flights, President Salome Zourabichvili has referred to the move as a provocation.

On May 25, Georgian Airways founder Tamaz Gaiashvili told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Ekho Kavkaza service that he was dissatisfied with the flights’ load factor so far. The carrier has been operating the route daily, the ch-aviation capacities module shows. Asked whether it could reduce its frequencies, he answered that it was necessary to wait for one or two months. “The workload is about 40%. Expectations were different,” he added.

Earlier, he said the airline would offer transit flights to Russians via Tbilisi to Europe, but he told Ekho Kavkaza that there were no specific plans in this direction at this point.