Moscow, 28 November 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian border guards say they are ready to start imposing a visa regime on the Russian-Georgian border beginning December 5. The Russian government has said the introduction of a visa regime is necessary to prevent the infiltration of rebels and the smuggling of weapons from Georgia into Russia's breakaway republic of Chechnya. Russia has repeatedly accused Georgia of failing to prevent Chechen rebels from crossing over. Georgia denies the accusations. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze yesterday called the planned Russian measure discriminatory.
Russia will begin demanding visas from Georgian visitors next Tuesday. But Georgian citizens living permanently in Russia will be able to travel without visas to Russia until March next year. There are an estimated 1 million Georgians who either live permanently in Russia or travel there frequently, mostly as small traders.