Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Wednesday, 25 October 2006 12:33 UK

Putin attacks Georgia 'war plans'

Russian President Vladimir Putin during live phone-in
Mr Putin has put pressure on Georgia's pro-Western leaders

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Georgian leaders of seeking to resolve their country's territorial disputes by force.

Mr Putin told Russian TV viewers that in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region "people are very concerned about the militarisation of Georgia".

Russia was also "alarmed by the current leadership's policy of resolving these problems by force", he said.

Russia has deported hundreds of Georgians amid a bitter diplomatic row.

Mr Putin was speaking in a live TV phone-in with Russians nationwide.

Separatist pressure

The pro-Russian separatist authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia want independence from Georgia, but Tbilisi has vowed to reimpose its rule in the rebel regions.

We are not trying to increase our territory, we have enough
Vladimir Putin

Mr Putin warned that it would be a big mistake for Georgia to resort to force. "We cannot allow bloodshed in this region," he said.

He insisted that Russia did not have territorial ambitions in the Caucasus.

"We're not trying to increase our territory. We have enough territory," he said.

He stressed the need for peaceful compromise, saying "we respect the Georgian people... Georgians made a huge contribution to Russian statehood".

He said Russia would be closely watching developments in Kosovo, the mainly ethnic Albanian province which broke away from Serbia.

Georgia map

Kosovo - still officially part of Serbia - is run by a UN administration, but a final settlement is being negotiated. Many observers expect Kosovo to get some form of independence, which might be an imposed solution.

Georgian and Abkhaz separatists accused each other of opening fire while Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili was visiting the flashpoint Kodori Gorge area of Abkhazia on Wednesday.

Russian-Georgian relations worsened last month after Tbilisi detained four Russians whom it said were spies.

Russia responded by cutting transport and postal links with Georgia and expelled hundreds of Georgians alleged to be living in Russia illegally. Police also cracked down on Georgian businesses in Moscow.

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