Russian President Vladimir Putin (File photo: VCG)
MOSCOW, June 21 (Xinhua) -- President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Friday, ordering Russian airlines to indefinitely suspend passenger flights from Russia to Georgia starting July 8 as tensions flared up between the two countries.
The decree on Certain Measures to Ensure the National Security of Russia and to Protect the Citizens of Russia from Criminal and Other Illegal Actions advises Russian travel agencies not to sell tours to Georgia until the ban is lifted.
The decree, published on the Kremlin website, demands the Russian government take measures to ensure the return of Russian citizens temporarily staying in Georgia, together with their luggage.
The document, which entered into force immediately, orders the Russian Foreign Ministry and other relevant departments to establish coordination with the Georgian authorities in resolving issues related to the safety of Russian citizens and their return home.
Moscow was forced to impose the travel ban to protect Russians from extremist actions ongoing in Georgia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The tensions between Russia and Georgia escalated sharply on Thursday and Friday after thousands of Georgian people gathered in front of the parliament building in downtown Tbilisi in protest against a Russian lawmaker's visit.
Georgian Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze resigned earlier on Friday amid the mass protests. At least 240 people, including 80 policemen, were injured in the riots and 305 participants in the rally were detained for various offenses.
Russia-Georgia relations have been tense for years over Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as a brief armed conflict in August 2008.