Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, has blamed the country of Georgia for upsetting attempts to make peace and restore diplomatic ties in the wake of the 2008 conflict.

“Tbilisi has turned down all our offers to restore diplomatic ties and continues its hostile actions against us on the international scale, contributing to the NATO strategy of containing Russia,” he told the Izvestia newspaper.

The countries fell out in August 2008 after Tbilisi sent troops to breakaway South Ossetia, where many have Russian passports. Russia sent in troops to protect its citizens and soon recognized the independence of two regions in Georgia’s north, prompting the latter to break off ties.

In an interview out Monday, the senior diplomat warned Georgia that its aggressive behavior “threatens the normalization process that started in 2012 and has benefited citizens of both countries.” 

Karasin said Russia was open to a deal on visa-free travel with the South Caucasus country but needed diplomatic relations to resume first.

“We do not exclude, in principle, a visa-free regime with Georgia on a mutual basis. But it is difficult to implement due to lack of a diplomatic relationship,” he pointed out.

Russia relaxed the visa regime with Georgia in 2015 as a result of a thaw between the two countries. The diplomat added that Russia’s current visa policies were shaped by an “uneasy international situation,” specifically a rise in terrorism and illegal migration.

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