Four russian soldiers accused of spying by the authorities in Georgia have been deported back to Moscow. But the move, described as a goodwill gesture by Tbilisi, has failed to defuse the worst crisis to erupt for years between the two countries. Russia has announced plans to blockade air, rail and postal links with its former satellite state. Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov condemned Georgia’s actions as inexcusable: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is provocation, and it won’t be the last time.”
Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have always been uneasy, but nosedived after the election of pro-western President Mikhail Sakashvili.
Moscow’s blockade could cause deep damage to Georgia’s economy. Russia is a key trading partner, while many Georgians survive on money sent home by relatives working in Russia. Russia has already banned two of Georgia’s biggest exports – wine and mineral water.