Georgia resumes commercial flights to Russia

By Tom Esslemont
BBC News, Tbilisi

Image caption, The Georgian Airways planes will fly between Tbilisi and Moscow

Georgia's main airline has resumed commercial flights to Russia for the first time since a war between the two countries nearly two years ago.

Georgian Airways has arranged for 12 charter flights between Tbilisi and Moscow over the summer months.

The resumption of air travel ends the need for long diversions via Ukraine and Armenia.

The move is a sign of slowly improving relations, although full diplomatic ties remain suspended.

Russia severed the link with Georgia in August 2008 after the five-day conflict. Since then there have only been a handful of trial flights.

The Russian transport authorities gave permission for the new service, which will be of benefit to members of the large Georgian diaspora living in and around Moscow.

One of the first passengers to check in at Tbilisi airport said: "Georgians and Russians have always been brothers and I always knew flights would resume one day."

Another passenger said: "Now there will be more travel between the two capitals. It's a lot easier for us. It's wonderful."

In March, a shared land border was opened but official relations between Georgia and Russia are still awkward.

Full diplomatic ties have yet to be restored since the war, and a Russian embargo on Georgian produce has yet to be lifted.

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