TBILISI/MOSCOW, March 5 – The Swiss embassy in Georgia began on Thursday accepting applications for Russian entry visas from Georgian nationals.
Georgia severed diplomatic ties with Russia in late August 2008 after Moscow recognized its former republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.
Recognition followed a five-day war with Georgia that began when the South Caucasus state attacked South Ossetia in a bid to bring it back under central control.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Swiss counterpart, Micheline Calmy-Rey, exchanged the diplomatic papers authorizing Switzerland to act on Russia’s behalf in Georgia at a ceremony in Moscow on December 13.
Andrei Smaga, the head of the Russian consulate at the Swiss Embassy in Georgia, said the visas will be issued based on Russian interests.
“We are beginning to issue visas for Georgian nationals, but not for all categories,” he said.
The Russian diplomat said that the consulate would not be issuing work or tourist visas. Only those Georgians in possession of invitations from close relatives will be able to travel to Russia.
Switzerland, as a neutral state, has for years represented the interests of a number of countries. It currently represents the interests of Cuba and Iran in the United States, U.S. interests in Cuba, and Iran in Egypt.