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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 October 2006, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
EU urges Russia to end blockade
People queue at a booking office at Tbilisi's airport on 3 October 2006
The impact of the sanctions is predicted to be severe
The EU has urged Russia to lift economic sanctions it imposed on Georgia in the continuing spying row.

External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said each side should be careful not to provoke the other.

Russia has cut off all transport and postal links with Georgia, despite the release of four Russian officers accused by Tbilisi of spying.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow did not intend to lift the sanctions in the near future.

Moscow denies the spying charge, while Georgia has accused it of bullying.

Restraint calls

"We do hope that Russia very, very soon lifts these sanctions," Ms Ferrero-Waldner told Reuters news agency during a visit to Georgia.

"There are so many irritants again on either side, and therefore it is very important not to provoke and not to be provoked," she said.

The message to our great neighbour Russia is: 'Enough is enough'
Mikhail Saakashvili
Georgian president

Her comments came a day after the US urged Moscow and Georgia to "lower the rhetoric" over the spy row.

Asked on Tuesday if the sanctions might soon be lifted, Mr Lavrov said: "Not for the time being.

"All measures limiting transport and postal links are aimed at stopping illegal money flows from Georgia into Russia."

The impact of the new measures is likely to be severe, BBC regional analyst Steven Eke says.

He says thousands of Georgian workers will be effectively stranded in Russia, unable to send home the earnings so many of their families depend on.

Fears have also been expressed about Georgia's reliance on Russian energy supplies.

Georgia remains totally dependent on supplies of Russian gas, and there are already warnings that heat and light could disappear from parts of Georgia unless the crisis is resolved quickly.

But Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili said his country would survive the Russian pressure as it always had.

'Goodwill gesture'

It is unclear if the sanctions decision was taken before the release of the Russian officers was announced by Georgia on Monday.

Georgian police escort the Russian officers to be transferred
The Russians were accused of spying on military installations

The officers were handed over to officials from the Organisation for the Security and Co-operation in Europe and later then were flown to Moscow.

They were personally welcomed by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, who thanked them for their "courage and the honour, characteristic of Russian officers", Interfax news agency reported.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said the transfer was a goodwill gesture, not a response to Russian pressure.

Mr Saakashvili said he wanted good relations with Russia, but added that Georgia could no longer be treated as a "the second-class backyard of... some kind of re-emerging empire".

He insisted that the men - who were charged with spying last week - had been organising a spying network.

In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Georgia of "state terrorism".

Mr Putin said Tbilisi had been trying to provoke Moscow.

Tense relations

Relations between the two countries have deteriorated sharply since Georgia and Nato agreed to hold talks on closer relations.

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

Moscow earlier recalled its ambassador and evacuated some of its staff in Georgia.

Our regional analyst notes that Georgia is already affected by a Russian ban on its top three agricultural exports - wine, mineral water and mandarin oranges.

How the 'spy' row has escalated

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