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Saakashvili Says Russia Is Overreacting --> Mikheil Saakashvili (file photo) (InterPressNews) October 2, 2006 -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has accused Russia of overreacting to the arrest of four Russian Army officers for spying.

Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin described the arrests as "an act of state terrorism with hostage taking." Putin also described Georgia's action as reminiscent of the police state of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Late the same day, Saakashvili dismissed the harsh reaction. He said "it is an overreaction caused by nervousness that they have created themselves."

"Now, President Putin, I heard him calling the demise of the Soviet Union the greatest tragedy of the 20th century," Saakashvili said. "Well, it was the happiest day of my life, certainly, so this is something on which we cannot agree, as well I cannot agree on making some connection between us and any legacy of KGB type of Stalin's past."

Saakashvili also rejected a suggestion by Putin that Washington was "creating" crises to worsen ties between Russia and Georgia.

"We've been hearing statements lately: 'Oh this has been decided in Washington,'" Saakashvili said. "Well, I think [the U.S.] State Department made it very clear -- this is a bilateral issue between Georgia and Russia."

Russia recalled its ambassador from Tbilisi, evacuated most of its diplomatic and military staff from Georgia following the detention on September 27 of four of its army officers.


Russia And Georgia
Beefed up security outside Russian military headquarters in Tbilisi on September 27 (InterPressNews)

NOT ALL WINE AND ROSES. Moscow's relations with Tbilisi since the collapse of the Soviet Union have often been tense and strained. Among the issues that have made the relationship difficult are Moscow's alleged support for the breakaway Georgia regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as the continued presence of Russia troops on Georgian territory. Periodically, Georgian lawmakers propose withdrawing from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) altogether. RFE/RL has written extensively about the rocky relationship between these two countries.


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RFE/RL's complete coverage of Georgia and Russia.