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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Now, the Georgians are Dying in Custody

As the Russia's pogrom against Georgia continues, the Herald Tribune reports that people arrested for being Georgian are starting to perish in their chains. Do we dare imagine how Russia would react if this happened to a Russian in Georgian custody? Welcome to the Neo-Soviet Union!

A Georgian about to be deported from Russia died Tuesday at a Moscow airport from an asthma attack, the Georgian Embassy said, accusing Moscow of "inhuman" behavior for depriving him of medical attention during five days of detention.

The death marked the first such incident since Russia launched a crackdown on Georgian illegal migrants, deporting hundreds in retaliation for Georgia's arrest of four alleged Russian spies last month. In the acrimonious dispute, Russia also has slapped a transport and postal blockade on its small, southern neighbor.

Tengiz Togonidze, 58, was taken into custody by immigration officials in St. Petersburg and was kept in detention for five days before being taken to Moscow for deportation, said Georgian Embassy spokesman Vakhtang Tatunashvili.

He began to feel unwell, but his requests to be allowed outside for fresh air and access to a doctor were denied, and on Tuesday he collapsed and died at Domodedovo airport, the diplomat said.

"Georgia has repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that the deportation of Georgian citizens from Russia is being carried out in gross violation of international standards," Tatunashvili said, complaining that the deportees were being kept "in inhuman conditions."

The Federal Migration Service confirmed the death of the Georgian, who was being deported along with some 150 others, but gave no further details.

Meanwhile, Russian police said Tuesday that they had busted a Georgian-led criminal gang that allegedly laundered almost US$8 billion (€6.3 billion).

The Russian Interior Ministry said more than 10 banks and credit organizations had been involved in the laundering of these funds between April 2004 and January 2005.

The proceeds, gained mostly from illegal banking operations, casinos, thefts and embezzlement of government funds, had been largely transferred abroad to Georgia, Latvia, the U.S. and other countries, the ministry said in a statement.

As part of Russia's retaliation over last month's spy row, police have been targeting the large Georgian Diaspora in Moscow with raids of businesses and restaurants. Several Georgian-owned casinos allegedly linked to criminals have been shut down.

Relations have steadily grown worse between Russia and the impoverished Caucasus Mountain state since pro-Western Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili came to power in 2003 vowing to throw off historic Russian influence and join NATO and the EU.

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