Russian President Vladimir Putin has abolished visas for Georgian nationals and lifted a 2019 ban on direct flights to the South Caucasus nation, a move that comes amid rocky relations between the two countries and that was quickly denounced by Georgia’s president as a “provocation”.

Announced on the Russian government’s website, the move introduces a 90-day visa-free period starting May 15.

In a statement, Russia’s transport ministry said Russian airlines would operate seven flights weekly between Moscow and Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi.

It said Russia wanted “to facilitate the conditions for communication and contacts between the residents of Russia and Georgia”.