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Russia Pulls 84 Diplomats Out of Georgia

September 30, 2006|From the Associated Press

TBILISI, Georgia — Russia evacuated 84 diplomats and their relatives from Georgia on Friday, and Georgia charged that Russia was moving troops near the border.

Tensions between the two nations, which have increased since pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in Georgia in 2003, escalated after Georgia arrested several Russian military officers on spying charges Wednesday. Russia has recalled its ambassador.

Tbilisi courts on Friday ordered four Russian officers to be held in custody for two months.

A fifth serviceman also arrested Wednesday was released the next day for lack of evidence.

Gen. Andrei Popov, commander of Russian military forces in Georgia, said arrests of military personnel could complicate closure of Russia's two remaining military bases in the Caucasus nation because "there will be no people left to prepare weapons for the pullout," the Interfax news agency reported.

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