Georgia

Russia, Georgia resume flights after 2008 war

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MOSCOW, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- A Georgian Airways charter flight that arrived in Moscow on Friday was the first direct flight between the two countries since their brief war in 2008, local media reported.

The Boeing 737 carrying 85 passengers took off from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on Friday morning and landed at Domodedovo Airport in southern Moscow about one and a half hours later.

The Itar-Tass news agency cited passengers on board the plane as saying they were very glad to see the resumption of air links and hoped that regular flights would be resumed soon.

Five charter flights were initially scheduled to fly from Georgia to Russia on Jan. 8-10. But the Georgian airline said the two flights to St. Petersburg were canceled due to a lack of passengers. In all, there will be three charter flights to Moscow over the next few days.

Georgian Airways said Moscow had not yet approved its request to resume regular flights.

Direct flights between Tbilisi and Moscow were halted in 2006 over a spy row between the two countries. The flights were resumed for a short time in 2008, but were suspended again after a five-day war in August of that same year.

The direct flight signaled an easing of tensions between the two former Soviet neighbors following their August 2008 military conflict.

In the first sign of a thaw in relations, Georgia and Russia announced last month they had agreed to re-open their land crossing at Upper Lars -- the only road that does not pass through either South Ossetia or Abkhazia, two Georgian rebel regions.

The 2008 war erupted when Georgia tried to retake South Ossetia, which broke from its rule in the 1990s following the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

In response, Moscow sent in troops to drive Georgian forces out of the region and recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states two weeks after the conflict ended. So far, only Nicaragua, Venezuela and the South Pacific island nation of Nauru have followed Russia's lead.

Editor: Fang Yang