Direct Flights to Russia - pro-Russian Focus of the Far-Right Wing
The direct flight of the Russian airline "Azimut" to Georgia on May 19, 2023,  was met with protests from the civil sector and positive responses from far-right groups. The far-right pro-Russian forces openly spread an illusory idea that normalizing economic relations with Russia would inevitably be followed by the restoration of the country's territorial integrity. The Democracy Research Institute assesses this statement as manipulative in nature, aiming to influence public sentiments, and posing a significant threat to the country's Western integration.

According to the Russian pro-Kremlin outlet РИА Новости, there were 86 passengers on board the May 19th "Azimut" flight. Among the passengers were members of the Georgian delegation participating in the forum organized by the CIS Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma in Moscow on May 14: Dimitri Lortkipanidze, Director of the Primakov Georgian-Russian Public Center; Head of "Georgian-Russian Friendship Center" Valeri Kvaratskhelia; Chairman of the pro-Kremlin public organization "Solidarity for Peace" Merab Chikashvili and former member of "Georgian Dream" Temur Maisuradze. At the forum, the delegates talked about the importance of canceling the visa regime and restoring direct air flights between Russia and Georgia. Dimitri Lortkipanidze informed the public about his return to Georgia from Russia on May 19 via the “Azimut” flight with photos and a thank you post dedicated to the forum participants.

A direct flight between Russia and Georgia resonated with the far-right and openly pro-Russian forces operating in Georgia. On May 19, the leader of the political group "Conservative Movement/Alt-Info" Shota Martinenko assessed the first direct flight to Russia in the program "Alt-Analytics" as a "historical event, which improved the possibility of dialogue with Russia."

Konstantine Morgoshia, the founder of "Conservative Movement/Alt-Info," called the flight “a big win” and ascribed the lion’s share of it to his team, along with highlighting “the goodwill of the Russian government and the "more or less" correct foreign course of the Georgian government."

In parallel with the restored direct flights with Russia, the far-right pro-Russian groups tried to create illusory hope in the society regarding the restoration of Georgia's territorial integrity in case of direct dialogue with Russia. On May 19, Irakli Martinenko said in the program "Alternative Vision" that "if Georgia starts having good relations with Russia, it would resolve the issue of territorial integrity and we will have no more problems with Russia. It automatically means that relations with the West would deteriorate."

Ramaz Gagnidze, the founder of the "Georgian Mission", known for his far-right views, tried to present those opposing direct flights with Russia as enemies of Georgia and a force opposing the restoration of territorial unity. "For liberals, the return of Abkhazia and Samachablo is unacceptable. They want to join NATO without territorial integrity!" - said Ramaz Gagnidze in his Facebook post published on May 22.

Together with the resumption of direct flights to Russia, the opposition and the civil sector protested against an attempt by a relative of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose guest list included Lavrov's daughter (sanctioned by the US, Canada, Ukraine, Great Britain, Japan, and Australia) to hold a wedding celebration in Kvareli.

Acting together with the Chairman of the “Georgian Dream”, far-right forces tried to discredit the activists. The leaders of the "Conservative Movement/Alt-Info" called the protests "xenophobia" and "anti-Russian hysteria of radical, liberal forces". On May 21, in the "Alt-Info" program ”Alternative Vision”, the leader of the "Conservative Movement" Irakli Morgoshia stated that "the mission of externally funded forces is to create unrest in Georgia and use all kinds of leverage to create destruction."

On the May 21 program ”Commentary of the Day", a member of the "Conservative Movement" Vano Bibileishvili said that the ongoing protests in Kvareli were directed by "ultraliberal, radical forces" whose interest is "a violent change of power". He drew a parallel with "Gavrilov's night" and added that, as in the past, the opposition forces were informed in advance about the wedding of Lavrov's relative.

The Chairmen of the “Georgian Dream” assessed the disruption of the wedding of the relative of the Russian Foreign Minister similar to the far-right groups: as a manifestation of xenophobia and incompatible with Georgian culture, calling the civil protest a "liberal-fascist campaign."