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Russia is ready to discuss with Georgia
Russia is ready to discuss with Georgia the introduction of visas for peacekeepers on the latter's territory within the Joint Control Commission, Foreign Ministry's spokesman said Friday. Mikhail Kamynin said, "The Georgian side has the right to raise the issue of introducing visas for Russian peacekeepers. However, this is a new question for Russia and we are ready to discuss it with Georgia within the framework of the Joint Control Commission [which tackles all issues in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone]." Georgian Defense Minister Irakly Okruashvili affirmed that his country was introducing visas for Russian peacekeepers in conflict zones. "The visa regime was introduced by Russia and they are now reaping the rewards," he said. Russia introduced a visa regime with Georgia in 2000 as a provisional measure to increase security on the Russian borders for fear of the possible spillover of violence from the turbulent Chechen Republic. Russia explained the move by citing what it called a lack of control on Georgian borders, which made it possible for gunmen to hide in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge and then infiltrate Chechnya. After a popular uprising swept Mikheil Saakashvili into power in 2003, Georgia introduced a simplified visa regime for Russian citizens in July 2004 that allowed them to obtain visas upon their arrival in the South Caucasus republic. Okruashvili said every "so-called" peacekeeper needed a visa. "I am not ruling it out that similar incidents may be repeated if they do not apply to the Georgian Foreign Ministry for relevant documents," Okruashvili said, referring to the arrest of three Russian peacekeepers Wednesday in Georgia for allegedly entering the republic without visas. The arrested officers have already been handed over to OSCE observers and are to leave Georgia within 24 hours. After violence erupted between Georgia and South Ossetia in the early 1990s, Russian troops were stationed in the conflict zone as part of the Joint Collective Peacekeeping Forces.
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