Vladimir Putin also ordered the defence ministry on Sunday to continue the planned withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia despite last week's arrest.

Putin's comments followed an urgent meeting with armed forces chiefs, ministers and the heads of intelligence services to discuss the worsening crisis between the two former Soviet states.
   
A statement on the presidential website said: "As a result of his meeting with permanent security council members, the president termed the actions of Georgia's leadership as an act of state terrorism with hostage-taking."

Putin also compared Georgia's moves against the officers to the actions of the secret police from Josef Stalin's era.
   
Beria, an ethnic Georgian like Stalin, ran the NKVD secret police which purged millions of Soviet citizens in the 1930s and 1940s and supervised Moscow's atomic bomb programme.
   
Since the row broke last week, Russia has pulled out its ambassador from Tbilisi, evacuated dozens of officials and stopped issuing visas to Georgians.

Putin did not say what additional measures Russia might take, but his use of the terms "hostage-taking" and "terrorism" suggested a tough response.

Troops pullout

The Kremlin also said Putin had ordered Russian forces to resume their withdrawal from Georgia after a military official had suspended the pull-out on Saturday. 

"As a result of his meeting with permanent security council members, the president termed the actions of Georgia's leadership as an act of state terrorism with hostage-taking"

The Kremlin

Putin ordered the defence ministry to continue troop withdrawal from Georgia as planned, the Kremlin said.

Alexei Gromov, Putin's spokesman, said in a statement that the president directed that the pullout of Russian troops from their bases in Georgia must continue as planned "despite the current situation".

Russian General Alexander Baranov, the commander of the North Caucasus military district, had said on Saturday that Moscow was suspending planning for further withdrawals from military bases left in Georgia after the 1991 Soviet collapse because the Georgian authorities last week detained four Russian military officers accused of spying.

Along with about 2,500 peacekeepers in breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia has between 3,000 and 4,000 troops at two military bases in Georgia that it pledged to withdraw by the end of 2008 under a deal signed last year.