[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
Russian officers on spying charge
Russian officers in Tbilisi court
The Russians are accused of spying on Georgia's military installations
Four Russian officers detained in Georgia have been charged with spying, Georgian officials have said.

A court in Tbilisi ordered all four officers to be detained for two months pending investigations.

Russia has recalled its ambassador to Tbilisi after Wednesday's arrests and has begun a partial evacuation of its staff from Georgia.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has described Moscow's reaction to the arrests as "hysteria".

In a separate development, Russia's ambassador to the UN has called on the Security Council to censure Tbilisi for "dangerous and unacceptable" actions in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region.

We neutralised a very serious and dangerous group
Vano Merabishvili
Georgian Interior Minister

Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have deteriorated in recent weeks, since Georgia and the Western military alliance Nato agreed to hold talks on closer relations, correspondents say.

On Friday, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov accused some new Nato members of illegally supplying Georgia with Soviet-era weapons. He did not name the countries.

Nato appealed to both sides to defuse the crisis.

Video footage

The four Russian officers were formally charged at a preliminary hearing in the Tbilisi court.

The court also ruled that seven Georgian nationals accused of treason should be detained for two months.

Georgian police are still surrounding a Russian military HQ building in the capital. They say another Russian officer they want to question is sheltering inside.

Georgian policemen patrol Russia's military HQ in Tbilisi on 28 September
Georgia is demanding the handover of another Russian officer

A Russian contract serviceman who was detained together with the four officers has been released, Georgian and Russian officials said.

Georgian officials have shown video footage which they say shows the Russian officers discussing military installations with Georgian citizens and exchanging money.

But the Russian ambassador said the evidence made public so far was not proof that the Russian officers were spies.

Tbilisi has also linked them to an attack in the town of Gori which killed three police officers and injured dozens of people.

The Russian defence minister said the charges against the officers were false and were intended to divert attention from Georgia's internal problems.

Evacuation

On Thursday, Moscow said it was recalling its ambassador, and ordered a partial evacuation of its personnel and members of their families in Georgia.

Families of Russian officials check in at Tbilisi airport before flying to Moscow
About 100 Russian nationals left Georgia on Friday

The first two Russian emergencies ministry planes with about 100 people on board - including the ambassador - left Tbilisi on Friday.

Moscow has also advised Russians not to visit Georgia, and stopped issuing visas to Georgian nationals.

Georgia, meanwhile, has accused Russia of actively trying to undermine its government by backing separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The arrests coincided with the first official visit by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to a disputed area on the border between Georgia and Abkhazia.

Russia said his visit was dangerous and would raise tensions between Russia and Georgia.

Tbilisi also says Moscow is waging economic war against the country through embargoes on imports of Georgian products, which Russia denies.

Relations between the two nations have become increasingly tense since Mr Saakashvili came to power in 2004, pledging to take the Caucasian nation out of Russia's orbit and join Nato and the European Union.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The Russian Ambassador to Georgia talks about the row



SEE ALSO
Q&A: Russian-Georgian ties
29 Sep 06 |  Europe
Country profile: Georgia
06 Sep 06 |  Country profiles

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific