Russia accused of ethnic cleansing

Georgia’s ambassador to Moscow this week struck out at the Kremlin, saying Georgians living in Russia were “hiding at home in fear’’ after a Kremlin-backed campaign of intimidation.

Tbilisi has accused Russia of “ethnic cleansing’’ after it deported 400 Georgians from its territory following the spy scandal that saw four alleged Russian military intelligence officers­ detained and then ejected from Georgia earlier this month.

Ambassador Irakli Chubinishvili said “absolutely stupid’’ retaliatory measures had been unleashed on Georgians living in Russia. “The Russian government has decided to punish Georgia,’’ he said. “They went to real extremes.
Georgians and ‘suspected Georgians’ are being sought out and taken to police stations.’‘

Russia imposed an economic embargo on Georgia after the spy crisis and has accused the United States-supported former Soviet republic of having an anti-Russian policy.

Chubinishvili said law enforcement agencies in Moscow have closed numerous Georgian businesses and demanded that schools provide lists of Georgian children to help identify parents with irregularities in their immigration documents.

At the weekend police surrounded the Georgian consulate and a Georgian Orthodox church in an attempt to catch Georgians living in Moscow without the correct papers, he said. “We treated their spies in a dignified manner and this is how they behave,’’ said Chubinishvili.

The ambassador acknowledged that more than half of the Georgians deported from Russia had problems with visas or work permits, but claimed the rest were ejected because of minor violations that could have been easily resolved.

Several high-profile Georgian figures in Russia have had their tax affairs investigated in recent days.—Â