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What is behind the recent spat between Georgia and Russia?

14 34 0
16.07.2019

Outrage is the most lucrative commodity in the global political market, especially in Eastern Europe. The recent crisis in relations between Russia and Georgia is a good illustration of this truism.

It started pretty much out of the blue with an incident involving a member of the Russian Duma, Sergey Gavrilov, who was part of a delegation at this year's meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy hosted by Georgia.

During the event held at the Georgian parliament, the Russian MP addressed the delegations from 21 Orthodox countries in attendance from the seat of the parliament speaker, which provoked a sharp reaction from pro-Western Georgian MPs and sparked weeks of protests in Tbilisi.

It is easy to see why many in Georgia did not take Gavrilov's actions lightly. The country has been in a state of frozen conflict with Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with occasional deadly flare-ups. Two of its breakaway territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, were effectively occupied by Russia after the 2008 Russian-Georgian war. Moscow also attempted to cripple the Georgian economy by imposing import bans on the most popular Georgian products - wine and mineral water.

Subsequently, after the pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili left Georgia and went into exile after the war, the new government took a much softer stance on Russia, which resulted in a thaw in relations. Sanctions were lifted and Russian tourists poured into the South Caucasus country, which boasts gorgeous mountain landscapes, warm sea and an extraordinarily rich culinary and winemaking tradition.

Some 1.4 million Russians visited Georgia in 2018, accounting for 20 percent of all........

© Al Jazeera