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Last Updated: Friday, 6 October 2006, 20:39 GMT 21:39 UK
Georgians deported as row deepens
Deportation flight returns to Tbilisi 06-10
Few of the returnees seemed happy to be back in Georgia
Russia has deported a planeload of Georgians, amid a deepening diplomatic row sparked by Georgia's recent arrest of four alleged Russian spies.

An aircraft carrying about 130 Georgians touched down in the capital, Tbilisi, at about 1700 (1300GMT).

The deportations were part of a series of punitive measures taken by Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Europe's security body to pressure Georgia to drastically change its course over the worsening dispute.

In a letter to the current chairman of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht, Mr Putin called Georgia's behaviour aggressive and irresponsible.

He accused the authorities in Tbilisi of planning to solve the conflicts between Russia and Georgia over Abkhazia and South Ossetia by force.

"I believe that at present the OSCE should concentrate its efforts on encouraging the current Georgian leadership to drastically change its course," the letter said.

Sombre return

The Georgians were rounded up in police raids over the past few days and accused of immigration offences, according to media reports.

Map of Georgia

One of the deportees told Georgian television her passport had expired but another said his documents were in order.

The BBC's Matthew Collin at Tbilisi airport said the deported Georgians walked down the ramp from the huge Russian cargo plane carrying whatever possessions they managed to bring with them.

Few seemed happy to be back in Georgia, although one woman knelt down and kissed the ground, he said.

Some said they felt they had been deported because they were Georgians, not because they were illegal immigrants, our correspondent added.

Meanwhile a Russian plane took more Russians out of Georgia, which Moscow says is now unsafe for its citizens.

Last week, some 100 Russian officials and their families in Georgia were ordered by Moscow to return to Russia.

Estimates vary but it is believed that at least one million Georgians live in Russia. Many Georgian families depend on the remittances they send home.

'School lists'

Moscow police have also asked schools to draw up lists of pupils with Georgian surnames as part of their search for illegal immigrants, Russian media reported.

Postal and transport links cut between Russia and Georgia
Georgian visa regulations tightened
Crackdown on Georgian immigrants accused of immigration offences

Alexander Gavrilov, a spokesman for the Moscow education department, said some schools had received the request, which he criticised.

But a Russian interior ministry spokesman said no such request had been made.

The latest moves follow a series of Russian reprisals in the wake of the officers' arrests on 27 September.

Moscow suspended its pullout from two former Soviet bases in Georgia, severed postal and transport links and cracked down on Georgian-owned businesses in Russia.

Why should Russia subsidise Georgia when it fails to consider Russian interests?
Robert, New York

Tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi have grown since the early 1990s, with Tbilisi accusing Moscow of supporting separatists in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russia has accused Georgia of pursuing an anti-Russian foreign policy in seeking closer relations with the West and Nato.

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