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Georgia: Russia Tightens Visa Controls

Moscow, 5 December 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russia today formally starts imposing visa controls on its border with Georgia. Russian officials have said the new regime is being introduced with the aim of impeding the movement of Chechen rebels and weapons across the Chechen-Georgian border. Georgians wishing to enter Russia will need to apply for a visa at Russian consular offices, while Russians wanting to visit Georgia will need to do the same at Georgian consular offices.

Long lines formed outside the Russian consulate office in Tbilisi yesterday as people planning travel to Russia sought visas.

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said the measures arouse serious concern. But Shevardnadze said he had been told by Russian President Vladimir Putin that they are only temporary.

Georgian Minister of State Giya Arsenishvili flew to Moscow for talks on the issue. The two sides are expected to sign an agreement that would include the simplification of visa requirements for people living near the border.