Russia deports 132 Georgians

Published October 7, 2006

MOSCOW - Russia has tightened the pressure on ethnic Georgians living in Moscow, ordering schools to compile lists of children with Georgian surnames to detect illegal migrants and deporting more than 100 people, officials said Friday.

Russia and the former Soviet republic have been locked in a bitter dispute since the arrests of four Russian officers by Georgia last week on charges of spying. Despite their release, Moscow has slapped a range of punitive sanctions on Georgia.

President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Georgia was to blame for the dispute and spurned Western calls to lift the sanctions. Putin said international mediators should focus on curbing Georgian conduct he said was "aimed at escalating tension."

Alexander Gavrilov, a spokesman for the Moscow City Hall's education department, told the Associated Press that some, but not all, Moscow schools received the request for children with Georgian names on Thursday. He criticized the police action, saying all children, regardless of nationality or religion, have an equal right to education.

Meanwhile, Russian authorities deported 132 Georgians accused of entering the country illegally, said Viktor Beltsov, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry. Other Georgians complained of detentions and harassment by police.

Some estimates say a million Georgians - more than a fifth of Georgia's population - work in Russia.