Page 2 of 2   <      

Russia May Revise Georgia Troops Plan

"It is absolutely clear to us that Georgia has chosen the military path, the forceful path, for resolving the conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia," he said, adding that Georgia's actions were "to push Russian peacekeepers out by any means possible ... and then to submit an application to join NATO."

Two Russian planes, meanwhile, evacuated 84 diplomats and their relatives from Georgia, officials said. The Russian ambassador to Georgia, Vyacheslav Kovalenko, said after returning to Moscow that families of all Russian military in Georgia also will depart, Interfax reported.

Georgian police surrounded the Russian military headquarters in Tbilisi on Friday, hoping to detain another Russian officer accused of spying. Russia has refused to surrender the officer.

In Moscow, police blocked streets around the Georgian Embassy. They allowed some 20 nationalists to protest briefly against Georgia's president before detaining them for holding an unsanctioned rally.

Russia's ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky called on Friday for "the most resolute action, up to the deployment of forces and air raids." A Kremlin-connected lawmaker, Konstantin Kosachev, said Moscow would not yield to what he called Georgia's provocation and stressed that "any forceful measures are absolutely excluded."

Separately, an official in South Ossetia claimed that masked Georgian officers shot out the tires of a car carrying four Russian peacekeepers, a woman and a child Thursday night, then ordered the men out and beat them. One peacekeeper sustained a fractured skull, according to the internationally unrecognized South Ossetian government, and Ivanov said there was proof they were "brutally beaten."

Georgian officials denied the allegations, saying police stopped a car with Russian peacekeepers, checked their documents and released them.

Russia's Foreign Ministry advised its citizens to refrain from traveling to Georgia, citing security concerns, and its embassy in Tbilisi stopped issuing visas to Georgian citizens.

Saakashvili denounced the moves as hysteria.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called for "moderation and de-escalation, and that goes for both parties," and a U.S. State Department official said both sides had to work toward a solution.

Matthew J. Bryza, in Berlin for diplomatic consultations on Abkhazia, also told journalists that "Georgia has expressed its sovereign view ... that it doesn't want Russian peacekeepers on its territory. There is a question of what is prudent, and what is the most effective way of asserting that right in the case of Tbilisi."


<       2

© 2006 The Associated Press