Anti-Georgian campaign heats up in Russia

An anti-Georgian campaign built up steam in Russia Wednesday as the authorities followed up sweeping sanctions on neighboring Georgia with measures targeting the large Diaspora in Moscow.

Russian lawmakers also tabled a motion expected to fiercely condemn Georgia's pro-Western leadership with the dispute set to persist after Russia rejected Western calls to end its blockade of its small, impoverished Caucasus neighbor.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said a transport and postal blockade slapped on Tbilisi on Tuesday would stand despite Monday's release by Georgia of four Russian officers whose arrest last week angered the Kremlin.

Lavrov said Tuesday the measures were aimed at cutting off criminal flows of money he claimed was being used by the Georgian leadership to increase its military might in preparation for the "forceful seizure" of two pro-Russian breakaway regions.

But the real aim appears to be to punish Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili for his defiance of Russia through the detention of its officers on spying charges. The dispute also reflects Kremlin alarm at Tbilisi's goal of NATO membership and the growing U.S. influence in its former Soviet backyard.

A Kremlin official said the sanctions a suspension of air, road, maritime, rail and postal links would not be lifted until Georgia ended its "hostile rhetoric" towards Russia.

"The range of measures are a response to the situation and consequently their duration will depend on how long the hostile rhetoric (of the Georgian leadership) continues," Modest Kolerov, the Russian presidential administration's official charged with regional relations, was quoted as saying Wednesday by the Gazeta.ru news Web site.

Later this week, the Russian parliament is set to consider a bill that would allow the government to bar Georgians living in Russia from sending money home  which would deal a huge blow to Georgia's struggling economy, reports AP.

According to some estimates, about 1 million of Georgia's 4.4 million population work in Russia and their families rely on the hundreds of millions of dollars in annual remittances.