President Vladimir Putin said on Friday he was surprised by protests against Georgia’s Kremlin as Russia resumed air travel with the pro-Western country.
Dozens of Georgians protested outside an airport in the capital Tbilisi last week as a Russian passenger jet landed in the Caucasus country for the first time since 2019.
The resumption of air traffic comes as Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine enters its second year and Russia’s isolation from the West deepens.
“To be honest, I was totally surprised by the reaction,” Putin said during a meeting with businessmen.
“I thought everyone would say, ‘Well, thanks, that’s good. But no, there was a completely incomprehensible fuss over this issue,’ Putin said in televised remarks.
“When I look from here, I think, ‘They’ve gone crazy, it’s not clear what’s going on there,'” he said.
Russia fought a short but bloody war with Georgia in 2008, and anti-Russian sentiment runs deep in the pro-Western country.
In response to anti-Moscow rallies in Tbilisi, Russia banned air travel with the country in 2019.
But in a surprise move, Putin lifted a no-fly zone with Georgia this month.
He has also introduced a 90-day visa-free regime for Georgian citizens.
Putin said on Friday he understood Georgia’s leaders had “repeatedly” asked Russia to lift the flight ban and visa regime.
At the same time, he said that Moscow would not interfere.
“What happens in the country is none of our business,” he said, adding that the Georgian people should decide their own way into the country.
Protesters in Tbilisi last week held signs reading “You are not welcome” and “Russia is a terrorist state”.
After years of tension, the Georgian authorities are increasingly accused of colluding with the Kremlin.
The government insists on maintaining economic ties with Russia.