(Herald Tribune) MOSCOW: Russia's Foreign Ministry dismissed Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's claim Wednesday that Moscow was behind opposition protests in Georgia.
" Moscow views this step by the Georgian authorities as an irresponsible provocation," the ministry said in a statement.
Georgian police used truncheons, tear gas and water cannons to disperse opposition protests in the capital, Tbilisi. Saakashvili said that tough action was necessary to prevent the ex-Soviet nation from sliding into chaos and blamed Russia for instigating the unrest.
Saakashvili accused Russian special services of funding and directing the Georgian opposition and said that several Russian diplomats would be expelled.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said that "horror stories about Russian spies" and claims that Moscow was behind the opposition protests were part of Saakashvili's efforts to cast Moscow as an enemy.
"Once again, the Georgian authorities are trying to replace a responsible and honest approach to numerous internal problems with banal attempts to blame everything on plots by 'an external enemy' and accuse dissenters of being its agents," the ministry said.
Russian-Georgian ties have steadily deteriorated since pro-Western Saakashvili came to power in the 2003 Rose Revolution, seeking to shed Moscow's influence and develop close ties with the United States and the European Union.
Saakashvili's goal to bring Georgia's breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia back into the fold has added to tensions. Both regions have developed close ties with Russia, which deployed peacekeepers there and granted its citizenship to many residents of the provinces.
Georgian authorities accused Russian peacekeepers of backing separatists and demanded their withdrawal. Moscow has dismissed the accusations and said that the peacekeepers could only be withdrawn if authorities in breakaway provinces agree to that.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said that Moscow would protect Russia's citizens in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and act as a "guarantor of peace and order in the region."
In what sounded like a call on the United States, the ministry urged "those who have direct influence on Tbilisi to warn the Georgian leadership from further destructive steps fraught with unpredictable consequences." It did not name any nation.