Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (file photo) (NATO)
October 17, 2006 -- Russian police said today that they had busted a Georgian-led criminal gang that allegedly laundered almost $8 billion.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the police are trying to cut off flows of money that he said the Georgian government is spend on the military in preparation for the "forceful seizure" of two pro-Russian separatist regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The Russian Interior Ministry said more than 10 banks and credit organizations had been involved in laundering the funds between April 2004 and January 2005.
The announcement comes after a diplomatic row erupted between Moscow and Tbilisi last month over the arrest of four alleged Russian spies.
Moscow And Tbilisi
Russian military hardware being withdrawn from a Russian base in Batumi, Georgia, in August 2005 (TASS)
WHAT COMES NEXT? Although Russia is unlikely to push an aggressive military response to the current tensions with Georgia, it has a number of economic, political, and diplomatic options at its disposal. Already on October 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin summoned his inner circle to weigh Moscow's options... (more)