DEBORAH AMOS, host:
The European Union today called upon Russia to lift the sanctions it's imposed on the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The punitive measures were in response to last week's detention of four Russian officers on charges of spying.
The BBC's Matthew Collin has more from Tbilisi.
Mr. MATTHEW COLLIN (Correspondent, BBC): The Russian military officers at the center of the crisis in relations between Georgia and Russia are now back in their home country. They flew out of Tbilisi after being handed over by the Georgian authorities. But before they were freed, they were paraded in handcuffs before the media in Tbilisi, a sign of the Georgian government's continued defiance.
The men were arrested last Wednesday. Georgia said they were part of a spy ring which was collecting intelligence on its military and energy system. Moscow denied the charges and exerted strong pressure for their release. It recalled its ambassador and flew home most of its diplomatic staff. But Georgia said it would not back down. It said the men were planning to destabilize the country.
President Putin of Russia accused Georgia of state terrorism, arresting the Russian officers. He said it was reminiscent of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, when millions were imprisoned or killed.
But the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Russia was trying to undermine Georgia both economically and politically. Relations between Georgia and Russia have worsened since Mr. Saakashvili came to power after the Rose Revolution nearly three years ago.
He wants closer ties with the European Union and to join NATO, something that Moscow opposes. Despite the release of the Russians, Moscow remains furious and has cut transport and postal links with Georgia. While these sanctions remain in place, the crisis between the two countries is unlikely to subside.
AMOS: The BBC's Matthew Collin in Tbilisi.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
Russia is imposing sanctions on neighboring Georgia in retaliation for Georgia's detention last week of four Russian officers on charges of spying. Russia went ahead with the sanctions, despite Georgia's decision to release the officers.
Russian is imposing sanctions on neighboring Georgia in retaliation for Georgia's detention last week of four Russian officers on charges of spying. Russia went ahead with the sanctions despite Georgia's decision to release the officers.
Steve Inskeep speaks with BBC reporter Matthew Collin.