Georgia tightens visa regime for Russian citizens

TBILISI (Reuters) – Georgia will tighten visa requirements for Russian citizens following the Kremlin’s decision to recognize two Georgian rebel regions, the government said on Saturday.

Previously Russian citizens were granted visas to enter neighboring Georgia at the border.

But from September 8, they will only be able to get visas at Georgian consulates and diplomatic offices, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Applicants will have to provide a letter of invitation and visas can be granted for family, business or humanitarian trips.

The move follows Tbilisi’s decision on Friday to cut diplomatic relations with Moscow over its backing for South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where pro-Russia separatists threw off Georgian rule in the early 1990s.

The foreign ministry said it would inform the Russian ambassador of the decision to cut diplomatic ties in writing, before recalling its diplomats from Moscow. Russia announced it would close its embassy in Tbilisi.

Russia and ex-Soviet Georgia fought a brief war over South Ossetia this month, with Russia pouring tanks and troops over its southern border to repel a Georgian offensive to retake the region.

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