Moscow cracks down on Georgians
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia has tightened the pressure on ethnic Georgians living in Moscow, ordering schools to compile lists of children with Georgian surnames to detect illegal migrants and deporting more than 100 people, officials said Friday.
Russia and the former Soviet republic have been locked in a bitter dispute since the arrests of four Russian officers by Georgia last week on charges of spying. Despite their release, Moscow has slapped a range of punitive sanctions on Georgia.
President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Georgia was to blame for the dispute and spurned western calls to lift the sanctions. Putin said international mediators should focus on curbing Georgian conduct he claimed was “aimed at escalating tension.”
Alexander Gavrilov, a spokesperson for the Moscow City Hall’s education department, said some but not all Moscow schools received the request for children with Georgian names Thursday. He criticized the police action, saying all children, regardless of nationality or religion, have an equal right to education.
“If the law-enforcement bodies carry out work searching for illegal migrants, it’s their business and there is no way schools must be involved in this process,” Gavrilov said.
Nina Zubareva, an official from school No. 1289 in northern Moscow, said the local police station telephoned Thursday and demanded a list of pupils with Georgian surnames.
“There are very few pupils with Georgian surnames in our school and we have honoured the police request. I must say that our pupils are Russian citizens and have Moscow registration.” she said.
In an interview with Ekho Mosvsky radio, Moscow police spokesperson Valery Gribakin denied authorities asked for the names. But the Kommersant newspaper said a high-ranking police official confirmed the request had been made.