Russia ends issuing visas to Georgians

Russia's embassy in Georgia stopped issuing entry visas to Georgians on Tuesday, saying it was a retaliation to Georgian authorities hampering trips by Russian servicemen.

The move comes at a time of heightening tensions between the two ex-Soviet neighbors. It dealt a painful blow to Georgians, many of whom make frequent business trips to Russia or visit relatives living there. About one million of Georgia 's 4.4 million people are estimated to live in Russia .

" Russia 's decision to stop issuing visas is outrageous," said Luara Gvakharia, a 61-year old Russian language teacher who wanted to visit her son living in Russia . " Russia is punishing simple people."

There was no immediate reaction to the Russian move from the Georgian authorities.

Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have been strained over issues ranging from energy supplies to Russia 's military presence.

Tensions have escalated earlier this month when the Georgian parliament adopted a resolution calling for Russian peacekeepers to withdraw from South Ossetia , where they have been deployed since 1992, and be replaced by international forces.

Georgian authorities have briefly detained several Russian servicemen recently, saying they did not have entry visas. Moscow has reacted angrily, saying that tightening of visa rules for the Russian servicemen was part of Georgian efforts to force them out.

Georgia accuses the Russian peacekeepers of siding with separatists in South Ossetia , which broke away from the central government in a war in the early 1990s and has support from Moscow , which has granted many of its residents Russian citizenship, reports the AP.


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