Russia, Georgia dispute escalates

Russian police have detained more than a dozen liberal youth activists rallying in support of Georgia outside the country's embassy in Moscow, amid an escalating dispute between Russia and Georgia.

    The Russian military officers have been released

    Russia has also placed sanctions on Georgia, including a transport and postal blockade, after the detention last week of four Russian military officers in Georgia on spying charges, officials said on Saturday.


    The detainees had gathered near the embassy in central Moscow to counter an anti-Georgian protest organized by pro-government activists.

     

    They were rounded up almost as soon as they approached the embassy and shouted "Georgia we are with you".

    Despite Georgia's release of the officers, Russia has further ratcheted up pressure on Georgia by cracking down on Georgian-run businesses, migrants and even ethnic Georgian cultural figures.


    Raids


    Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has laid full blame for the conflict on Georgia and spurned international calls to lift the sanctions, saying Georgian conduct was "aimed at escalating tension".


    Besides imposing the sanctions, Russian authorities have also raided a number of Georgian-owned firms and closed down several popular restaurants in Moscow.

    Russian media reported that similar raids have been launched in several Russian provinces.


    Moscow police have also asked schools to provide lists of children with Georgian last names in order to detect illegal migrants, education officials have said.


    Georgians living in Moscow have complained of illegal detentions and harassment by police.

    Russian authorities have cast their actions as a campaign to curb illegal migration and shady business practices. 

    Armenian concerns

     

    Russia's decision to impose a transport and postal blockade on Georgia after a bruising spy scandal may result in the economic isolation of its impoverished ally Armenia, politicians and analysts warned.


    Infuriated by Georgia's actions, several Russian politicians have already raised the prospect of cutting natural gas to Georgia, which would effectively block supplies to Armenia.


    Grach Silvanian, the Armenian ambassador to Georgia, has suggested that Armenia might look for other ways of securing energy supplies to the resource-limited nation of 3.3 million people.


    Silvanian said: "In the future we could solve the problem by supplying gas to Armenia not from Russia via Georgia, but directly from Iran."

    Some Armenians also worry that the ongoing crackdown against ethnic Georgians living or working illegally in Russia could also spread to the Armenian diaspora.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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