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Russia To Allow First Postwar Georgia Flights

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia has given permission for a second attempt to resume air links with Georgia following last year's war between the two countries, Interfax said today, after Georgian Airways canceled flights earlier this week.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced last month a series of moves to restore ties between the Georgian and Russian peoples, but said there would be no official contacts as long as Mikheil Saakashvili remained Georgian president.

Moscow blamed Tbilisi when charter flights planned for December 29 and 30 were canceled on December 28 by Georgian Airways, which said Russian permission came too late to organize the flights.

Russia's Transport Ministry gave permission for new charter flights between Tbilisi and Moscow on January 8, 9, and 10 and between St. Petersburg and the Georgian capital on January 9 and 10, a ministry source told Interfax.

Neither the Georgian government nor Georgian Airways could immediately be reached for comment.

Ties between Georgia and Russia have been frozen since the ex-Soviet countries fought a brief war in 2008 after Georgia tried to retake the breakaway South Ossetia region by force.

In the first sign of thawing ties, Medvedev said earlier this month he saw no obstacle to resuming flights, granting visa-free travel in Russia for Georgian citizens and lifting an import ban on Georgia's much-loved wine.

Moscow announced last week the opening of a key border post between the countries for the first time since the war.