President Vladimir Putin said on Friday he was surprised by anti-Kremlin protests in Georgia when 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 airliner landed in the Caucasus country for the first time since 2019.
The resumption of air travel comes as Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine enters its second year and Russia’s isolation from the West deepens.
“Honestly, I was totally surprised by the reaction,” Putin said during a meeting with businessmen.
“I thought everyone would say, ‘Well, thank you, that’s fine. But no, there was a completely incomprehensible uproar on this issue,'” Putin said in a televised address.
“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 brief 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 this month lifted a flight ban with Georgia.
It 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 Moscow would not interfere.
“What happens inside the country is none of our business,” he said, adding that the Georgian people should determine the country’s path themselves.
Last week, protesters in Tbilisi held up signs saying: “You are not welcome” and “Russia is a terrorist state”.
Georgian authorities have been increasingly accused of secretly cooperating with the Kremlin after years of tension.
The government insists that it must maintain economic ties with Russia.