Russia’s travel industry hit out Saturday at a decision by the Kremlin to suspend flights to Georgia as a politically motivated move that has little to do with safety concerns.
President Vladimir Putin signed a decree banning Russian airlines from flying to Georgia from July 8 late Friday in response to anti-government rallies in the ex-Soviet neighbor.
The outbreak of protests was sparked by a parliamentary address in Tbilisi by a Moscow lawmaker earlier this week.
The Kremlin said the ban was to “ensure Russia’s national security and protect Russian nationals from criminal and other unlawful activities” and a taskforce was being put together to oversee the return of Russians from Georgia.
Russia and Georgia fought a brief but bloody war in 2008 and tensions between the two governments remain high.
Georgia — known for its picturesque Black Sea resorts, rich national cuisine and generous hospitality — has emerged as one of the most popular destinations for Russian tourists over the past few years, with more than 1.3 million visiting last year.
The Kremlin ban during high season is expected to hit the two countries’ travel industries hard and become a major nuisance for Russian holidaymakers.
“Tourism in Georgia is on the rise, and the decision has shocked the whole industry,” Aleksan Mkrtchyan, head of Pink Elephant, a chain of travel agencies, said in a statement.
Irina Tyurina, a spokeswoman for the Russian Tourism Union, was more tight-lipped, declining to comment on what she said were political matters.
But the general consensus within the industry was that Georgia was not a dangerous destination, she said.
“Georgians have traditionally treated Russians well,” Tyurina told AFP.
It was too early to estimate any potential industry losses stemming from the ban, she said.
Russian travelers were also critical.
“This ban is silly,” Margarita Semyonova, a 19-year-old student, who visited Georgia last year, told AFP, suggesting that everyday Russians and the Georgian travel industry would suffer.
Elena Chekalova, a prominent chef and culinary blogger, said the latest Kremlin ban “shocked” her.
“Why are they deciding for us what we cannot eat, where we cannot fly, who we cannot be friends with?” she wrote on Facebook.
Moscow has suspended flights to Georgia before — during a spike in tensions in October 2006 and in August 2008 following the outbreak of a five-day war over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“Putin decided to punish Georgia because there are street protests there,” opposition leader Alexei Navalny said on Twitter.
Trump administration quietly guts COVID-19 paid leave provision that already excluded 75 percent of workers
The Trump administration has quietly issued new guidance that will exempt many small businesses from having to provide some workers with paid leave during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Labor issued a temporary rule Wednesday that effectively exempted businesses with fewer than 50 workers from being required to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for workers whose children are suddenly at home from school or child care under the coronavirus stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Trump is deploying national guardsman to provide pandemic support without any health benefits: report
The National Guard are an essential part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and thousands of them have potentially been exposed to infected civilians, making it a particularly dangerous and important time to serve.
But according to The Daily Beast, the guard has been deployed in a way that prevents them from being eligible for the military's health care system.
"The approximately 20,000 guardsmen who have been called up to help states around the country deal with the spread of the coronavirus are federalized on what’s called Title 32 status, which puts them in command of their various state governors but with the federal government paying costs," wrote senior national security correspondent Spencer Ackerman. "But according to the National Guard’s advocates and the U.S. governors’ association, the guardsmen are activated on orders that last 30 days. That puts them one single day shy of the requirement allowing the military health insurance system known as TRICARE — think of it as Medicare For All In Uniform — to cover them."
Vaccine researchers grew ‘alarmed’ as Trump’s CDC wasted weeks of their time with a flawed coronavirus test: report
According to a report from the Washington Post, in the early days as health officials became concerned about the possibility of the COVID-19 pandemic blossoming out of China, researchers sat and wasted days they could have used to start developing a vaccine because they were assured by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that a testing kit was on its way.
As it turned out, that test was flawed.
Relying on emails and interviews, the Post is reporting, "On a Jan. 15 conference call, a leading scientist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assured local and state public health officials from across the nation that there would soon be a test to detect a mysterious virus spreading from China. Stephen Lindstrom told them the threat was remote and they may not need the test his team was developing 'unless the scope gets much larger than we anticipate,' according to an email summarizing the call."