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Russian Crackdown Targets Georgians Living in Moscow


Russian media say authorities in Moscow are cracking down on the city's large Georgian population, as tensions between the two countries escalate.

Police are said to have shut down a casino complex linked to Georgian investors, and they are raiding other Georgian-owned businesses in Moscow, checking for possible violations of Russian law.

In a meeting with lawmakers in Moscow Wednesday before parliament takes up the dispute with Georgia, President Vladimir Putin said no country should be allowed to threaten Russia with "the language of provocations and blackmail."

Parliament is expected to quickly pass a resolution Wednesday calling for economic sanctions against Georgia. These could include a ban on remittances - money sent home by Georgians living abroad - which are vitally important to the Georgian economy.

Relations between the two countries deteriorated sharply last month after Georgia detained four Russian military officers and accused them of espionage. The four men were returned to Russia on Monday, but the Kremlin suspended all transport and postal links with Georgia the following day.

More than half a million Georgians are believed to be living and working in Russia, including a large number in the capital. They send hundreds of millions of dollars home each year.

The Russian Interior Ministry said Tuesday's raids were "routine, planned work ... to combat ethnic organized-crime groups."

Russia has complained of "provocative acts" by Georgian forces, and is demanding their withdrawal from the Kodori Gorge in the breakaway Abkhazia region of Georgia, which has ties to Russia.

Russia also has been asking the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution supporting Moscow's view of the dispute.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Tuesday that Georgia must comply with earlier U.N. resolutions and international arrangements in Abkhazia. Georgian Ambassador Irakli Alasania, in turn, accused Russia of abusing its position in the Security Council.

Georgia accuses Russian peacekeepers of backing pro-Russian separatists in Abkhazia and another separatist region, South Ossetia. Both regions declared independence from Georgia in the 1990s. Georgia vows to bring both back under its control.

The Kodori Gorge was the only section of Abkhazia that had remained loyal to the central Georgian government. Georgian troops moved into the area in July after a local leader declared autonomy.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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