Page last updated at 15:44 GMT, Tuesday, 3 October 2006 16:44 UK

Unease grips Georgians in Russia

Khatuna Dadiani
Khatuna and her husband now talk about selling up and moving away
Khatuna Dadiani is one of the estimated half a million Georgians living in Russia, who send money home to support family members.

As of today she faces two new problems - how to wire money to Tbilisi, and how to get to Georgia if she wants or needs to visit.

But Russia's economic sanctions against Georgia strike her as more ridiculous than anything else.

"Of course there will be ways round them," she says.

"The worrying thing is that attitudes towards Georgians are changing so fast here - it's getting worse and worse."

Money and travel

Khatuna's husband, who has his own construction company, is investigating the possibility of sending money to Georgia via foreign banks in Moscow, rather than Russian banks.

The people to whom we send money, live on that money
Khatuna Dadiani
The solution to the travel problem would be to fly via Ukraine or Armenia - a minor inconvenience.

It might also be possible to go by road through the Russian republic of North Ossetia, though Khatuna says this would involve dealing with bribe-hungry border guards.

Khatuna is originally from the Georgian autonomous region of Abkhazia, and her relatives in Georgia are mainly refugees, forced out during the 1992-93 war in the region.

Some have found their feet in the Georgian capital, others have not.

"The people to whom we send money, live on that money," she says. "They have big families to feed."

In the current war of words between Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and Russia's Vladimir Putin, Khatuna is 100% behind Mr Saakashvili.

She was deeply offended by Mr Putin's account of the arrest of Russian officers in Georgia on spying charges as part of the legacy of the Stalin-era secret police chief, Lavrentiy Beria - a Georgian, like Stalin himself.

Changing attitudes

But what worries her most is what she perceives as a changing attitude towards Georgians in Russian society as a whole. It is getting worse "exponentially", she says.

She worries for the safety of her daughter, who travels on public transport every day to an institute, where she studies modern languages.

"Georgians in Russia are quietly selling their businesses and going away," she says.

Her husband, who has lived in Russia most of his life, used to laugh at the idea, but he has now begun to consider it, she adds.

In an ideal world they would return to Abkhazia but, that being impossible, they have discussed going further afield, to Spain or Italy perhaps.

"[The comedian, Mikhail] Zhvanetsky said on television recently that the biggest achievement of Russian democracy is that anyone can go away," says Khatuna.

"He is absolutely right."

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