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Russia demands release of two men detained in Georgia

RIA Novosti

14:05 23/10/2009 MOSCOW, October 23 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow is demanding the release of a Russian human rights activist and a retired army officer detained in Georgia, Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

Human rights activist Vladimir Vakhaniya was arrested in October 2008 while visiting relatives in Georgia, and retired Army Lt.Col. Pavel Bliadze was arrested in May of this year after crossing the border from Russia.

"Russia demands an end to provocations in regard to our citizens, a stop to fabricated court cases, and the release of Vakhaniya and Bliadze," the ministry said in a statement.

Russia hopes the International Red Cross and human rights organizations "pay attention to the unlawful actions of Georgian authorities," the ministry said.

Vakhaniya was detained on October 12, 2008, while visiting relatives. He has been accused of illegally acquiring firearms found during a search of his father's house in the village of Zugdidi. He was also accused of spying for Russia. Vakhaniya has denied the accusations, saying the charges were fabricated.

Bliadze was detained in May this year by Georgian Special Forces on suspicion of spying for Russia. He was also charged with illegal possession of a firearm, which he says was planted by Georgian police.

Both men are Russian citizens with Georgian lineage.

In August 2008, Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war over the former Georgian republic of South Ossetia, after which Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another former Georgian republic. Diplomatic ties have since been severed between the two countries and Switzerland represents Russian interests in Georgia and Georgian interests in Russia.

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