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Georgia Kicks Off Russian-Language TV Venture

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili takes to the airwaves.
Georgia has launched a new Russian-language television channel that critics say will fan tensions with Russia, still high after the brief 2008 war between the two countries.

The First Caucasian Channel, initiated by President Mikheil Saakashvili and funded by the government, will broadcast to Georgia and several foreign countries including Russia.

Its moderators include Oleg Panfilov, the head of the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, and Alla Dudayeva, the widow of Dzhokhar Dudayev -- the first president of the secessionist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.

In a statement posted today on the channel's website, Saakashvili dismissed accusations that the First Caucasian Channel will engage in anti-Russian propaganda.

But Giorgi Khaindrava, Georgia's former state minister for conflict resolution and now a top opposition leader, slammed the channel as a "provocation" that could spark a new war with Russia.

compiled from agency reports