Support The Moscow Times!

Georgia and Russia to Hold First Bilateral Talks Since War

The billionaire prime minister’s own hulking glass and metal residence overlooking Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. Shakh Aivazov

TBILISI — Russia and Georgia will hold bilateral talks this week, the first since their 2008 war, marking an improvement in ties after the party of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Russia's bitter foe, lost control of parliament in October elections.

Diplomats from Moscow and Tbilisi will meet in Switzerland this week for an "informal meeting mediated by the Swiss," said Zurab Abashidze, a new Georgian envoy tapped by the recently elected government to head ties with Moscow.

Relations between the two former Soviet states remain fraught four years after Russia crushed a Georgian assault on the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Each blames the other for starting the conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who once threatened to "hang Saakashvili by the balls," has repeatedly said Moscow would never hold talks with him.

Russia welcomed the outcome of the elections, which ended Saakashvili's nine-year dominance and swept to power an opposition coalition led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who has said he wants to improve relations with Moscow.

But the two sides are at a political stalemate over South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia. Russia recognized both as independent states shortly after the war.

Among the issues on the agenda for talks, Abashidze said last month, is reversal of the politically charged Russian ban on imports of Georgian wine, mineral water and other products. Moscow instituted the ban two years before the war.

Georgian wine and mineral water have been popular in Russia since the Soviet era and made up almost a third of total Georgian exports prior to the ban.

… we have a small favor to ask. As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just $2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.

paiment methods
Not ready to support today?
Remind me later.

Read more