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Russia Stops Issuing Entry Visas To Georgians

(RFE/RL) 21 February 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's embassy in Tbilisi today has said its consular section would stop issuing entry visas to Georgian nationals.

It says exceptions will be made only "on humanitarian grounds."

The embassy said the action is in retaliation to Tbilisi hampering trips by Russian servicemen stationed in Georgia. The decision comes a week after Georgian lawmakers voted to remove Russian peacekeepers deployed in the separatist republic of South Ossetia.

Also today, Russia's ambassador to Tbilisi, Vladimir Chkhikvishvili, told reporters that a planned visit to Moscow by Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli had been postponed.

"I officially informed the prime minister [of Georgia] that the Russian side had suggested he put off his visit. The visit is not cancelled, it is just postponed. We believe that, given the present tense situation, we should observe a pause," Chkhikvishvili said.

Noghaideli's two-day visit to Russia was due to start on 26 February. There was no immediate reaction from the Georgian authorities.

(with additional material from agencies)