Russia has new warning for Georgia

Published October 5, 2006

MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday accused Georgia of blackmail and lawmakers threatened more sanctions as Moscow police went after businesses allegedly tied to Georgian organized crime and cracked down on illegal migrants from the Caucasus Mountains nation.

The Kremlin's fury over last week's arrest of four Russian officers in Georgia, which sparked Moscow's suspension of air, sea, road, rail and postal links on Tuesday, showed no sign of ebbing despite their release.

The arrests appear to have been the last straw for the Russian leadership, which is alarmed over Tbilisi's goal of NATO membership.

Summoning parliamentary faction leaders to the Kremlin, Putin thanked them for their show of unity.

"I would not counsel anyone to talk to Russia in the language of provocations and blackmail," he told the four legislators - Boris Gryzlov, the head of the dominant pro-Kremlin United Russia party, and the heads of the State Duma's three nationalist parties.

The lawmakers then led passage of a statement on the "anti-Russian and antidemocratic policy of the Georgian authorities," which signaled "harsher measures" in case of further aggravation.

Possible next steps include sharply restricting Russian energy shipments come winter and prohibiting money transfers from Russia and Georgia.