The Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused neighbouring Georgia of behaving like Stalin’s secret police. Putin called an urgent meeting of his security council outside Moscow to discuss the crisis over Georgia’s arrest last Wednesday of four Russian officers for spying. In his first public remarks on the crisis, he described Georgia’s actions as “a sign of the political legacy of Lavrenty Pavlovich Beria, both inside the country and in the international arena”.
Beria, an ethnic Georgian like Stalin, ran the NKVD secret police which purged millions of Soviet citizens in the 1930s and 1940s. Russia has pulled out nearly all of its diplomats from Georgia and has suspended a planned pullout of its troops. The police cordon around the Russian army headquarters in Tbilisi has, however, been lifted.
One Tbilisi resident expressed his concern: “The Russian and Georgian governments need to reach an agreement that will help remove any reason for further confrontation.” Although the arrests sparked the latest row, relations between Russia and Georgia have been worsening for months.
Russia dislikes Georgia’s openly pro-Western policies and Georgia accuses Moscow of stoking separatist sentiment in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.