Nika Melia: “Russian nationals purchased 10,000 apartments in the last 16 months.”

Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Nika Melia’s statement is TRUE.

Resume: Over the course of 2022, some 4,520 Russian nationals purchased 6,062 apartments whilst 2,187 apartments were bought by 1,679 Russian nationals in the first quarter of 2023. In total from January 2022 until April 2023, Russian nationals purchased 8,249 apartments which is over 41% of apartments bought by foreign nationals and exceeds the volume of property purchased by any other nationals in the country. FactCheck concludes that Nika Melia’s statement is MOSTLY TRUE.

Analysis:

On 11 May 2023, on air on TV Pirveli’s talk show Reaktsia, former chairperson of the United National Movement, Nika Melia, speaking about increased migration from Russia, stated (from 13:53): “Today’s decision for Georgian nationals (the right to enter Russia without a visa for a duration of 90 days in a 180-day period), more precisely, yesterday’s decision and the restoration of direct flights are in my opinion intended to make the Russian diaspora in Georgia the strongest diaspora which, of course, entails a myriad of problems because the diaspora of the occupier state is getting stronger and we know that 10,000 apartments were bought by the Russian nationals in the last 16 months.”

On 4 April 2023, MP Khatuna Samnidze, as a part of the MP’s Question, requested information from the Ministry of Justice about the acquisition of real estate by foreign nationals.

In accordance with the reply of the Ministry of Justice, foreign nationals bought a total of 14,875 apartments in 2022. Of this amount, Russian nationals purchased 6,062 apartments with Russia’s share amounting to 40.8%. Of the 5,159 apartments sold to foreign nationals in January-March 2023, Russian nationals bought 2,187. In this case, Russia’s share increased to 42.4%.

Apart from apartments, there were 7,057 land plots bought by foreigners in the last 15 months and of this amount, Russian nationals purchased 3,958 which amounts to 56.1%. Russian nationals also account for 37.7% of non-residential spaces bought by foreigners (766 out of 2,030) and 21.3% of commercial spaces (38 out of 178). It is only the United States that has a bigger share than Russia in terms of the acquisition of commercial spaces.

Of the 4.704 million visitors in 2022, there were 1.087 million Russian nationals. Therefore, the share of Russian visitors reached 23.1% and took first place. In the first quarter of 2023, Russian visitors further solidified their first position with a 24.1% share. The biggest net migration in 2022 – 56,369 was also registered from Russia.

In 2013, Russia’s share in remittances to Georgia was 54% and dropped to 18% in 2021 after a steady decline. However, it rose again to 47% in 2022 with the trend persisting in the first quarter of 2023 and total remittances reaching USD 1.256 billion which is 130% more as compared to the same period of 2022 as remittances from Russia increased by 859% to USD 679 million. Russia’s share in remittances in the first quarter of 2022 was 13.1% whilst it amounts to 54% as of January-March 2023.

As per Russia’s decision, direct flights between Russia and Georgia were suspended from 8 July 2019. Simultaneously, Russia recommended that its own citizens not travel to Georgia. In January-June 2019, the number of visitors from Russia increased by 32% from 527,000 to 692,000 as compared to the same period of the previous year and their number decreased by 11% from 878,000 to 780,000 in July-August 2019.

It is impossible to have an accurate estimate of the impact that will occur from the restoration of direct flights between Russia and Georgia after four years. Other things being equal, this will contribute to the increased number of Russian visitors, although the exact numbers are not known.

In regard to Nika Melia’s statement, he is right when highlighting increased migration flows from Russia. Russia is ranked first both in terms of temporary visitors and migrants to Georgia. Russia is also at the top in terms of remittances and the amount of real estate bought by foreign nationals. However, there is a slight inaccuracy in Mr Melia’s figures. He did not provide the source for the data from April 2023. Based on the data of the first quarter of 2023, Russian nationals purchased 729 apartments on average per month. If Russian nationals did indeed buy 10,000 apartments in the period of 16 months, this means that they purchased 1,751 apartments in April 2023 which is 140% more than the average figure of the last period. This is theoretically possible but questions remain given the absence of a source. Given the accuracy of full picture as well as the possible inaccuracy of the statistical data, FactCheck concludes that Nika Melia’s statement is TRUE.


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