July 08, 2019
FILE PHOTO: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council in Moscow, Russia July 5, 2019. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS
By Andrew Osborn, Tom Balmforth
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Monday condemned an obscenity-laden tirade against President Vladimir Putin by a Georgian television presenter, calling it an unacceptable political provocation by radical forces designed to spoil relations.
Georgia’s Rustavi 2 TV station on Sunday broadcast a program called Post Scriptum during which the host, Giorgi Gabunia, speaking in Russian, used offensive language to graphically insult Putin and the Russian people.
Gabunia called Russian people, many of whom like to holiday in the former Soviet republic, slaves and told them to get out of Georgia with whom Russia fought a short war in 2008.
“We regard this (the verbal attack) as another overt provocation by radical Georgian forces designed to undermine Russian-Georgian relations,” Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
“The current outrageous incident is a clear example of where rabid anti-Russian sentiment leads.”
Relations between Georgia and Russia have come under serious strain in recent weeks after anti-Kremlin protests erupted in Tbilisi when Russian lawmaker Sergei Gavrilov, invited to Georgia by local pro-government parliamentarians, addressed the chamber from the speaker’s chair in Russian.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili blamed Moscow for the unrest that followed, which saw dozens of protesters and journalists injured, suggesting a “fifth column” loyal to Moscow had stirred up the trouble.
Many Georgians who took to the streets said they were angry about the continued presence of Russian troops on Georgian soil after the two countries fought a short war in 2008 which Moscow won.
The Kremlin responded to the unrest by suspending passenger flights between the two countries, a move it said was necessary to protect Russian citizens from what it described as a dangerous outburst of anti-Russian sentiment.
Russian authorities have also tightened controls on Georgian wine imports.
Reporting by Andrew Osborn, Andrey Kuzmin; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Christian Lowe