Russia resumes issuing visas to Georgians, finishing controversy

Russia 's Embassy in Georgia resumed issuing entry visas to Georgians after the two ex-Soviet nations solved their dispute over trips by Russian servicemen to Georgia, officials said Tuesday.

The Embassy stopped issuing visas on Feb. 21, in what it described as retaliation for Georgian authorities hampering trips here by Russian servicemen. The move dealt a painful blow to Georgians, many of whom make frequent business trips to Russia or visit relatives living there. About 1 million of Georgia 's 4.4 million people are estimated to live in Russia .

But Georgian authorities began issuing visas to Russian servicemen earlier this month, and Russian Embassy spokesman Mikhail Svirin said Tuesday that the issue had been resolved.

Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Merab Antadze praised the decision as a "positive step."

The visa dispute highlighted growing tension between the two countries, which have bickered over issues ranging from energy supplies to Russia 's military presence.

Relations were further strained last 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.

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.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has vowed to bring South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, back under central government control, reports the AP.

D.M.