Russia said Monday it was tightening controls on Georgian wine as tensions rose between the ex-Soviet neighbours after days of anti-Kremlin protests in Tbilisi.
Consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said in a statement that it had noticed a “deterioration” in the quality of Georgian wine and had “tightened control” of all Georgian alcoholic beverages entering Russia.
Russia banned wines from Georgia in 2006 amid tensions between Moscow and the pro-Western Georgian leadership at the time, only lifting the ban in 2013 after a new government was elected.
Diplomatic strains between the two countries have risen after protests and violent clashes erupted in Tbilisi last week over a Russian lawmaker speaking in the Georgian parliament.
On Friday Russian President Vladimir Putin banned Russian airlines from flying to Georgia and Georgian air carriers travelling to Russia starting July 8.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov called controlling Georgian wine “preventative measures” that have nothing to do with a “political conflict”.
He also defended the flying ban, saying “the president, as the president of all Russians, needs to think about (their) security.”
“Russophobic hysteria currently reigns in Georgia,“ Peskov said in a Monday briefing.
The anti-government protests, which entered a fourth day on Sunday, have evolved into a broader movement against billionaire businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili, the head of the ruling Georgian Dream party.
Ivanishvili announced a series of electoral reforms on Monday aimed at mollifying the protesters.
Georgia has long been dependent on wine sales to its northern neighbour and other Soviet-era partners.
Relations between Georgia and Russia have long been fractured over Tbilisi’s bid to join the European Union and NATO.
The confrontation culminated in a war over Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in August 2008