MOSCOW, November 17 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement Friday condemning anti-Russian rhetoric in remarks by a Georgian minister, who accused the country's leadership of ethnic cleansing.
At a recent press conference in Brussels, Georgia's Minister for European and Trans-Atlantic Integration, Giorgy Baramidze, compared Moscow's current policies toward Russian-based Georgian nationals to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany.
Moscow has deported several hundred Georgian migrants, who it said were in the country illegally, in a furious diplomatic row that began with Tbilisi's brief detention of four Russian army officers on spying charges at the end of September. It has also shut down several Georgian-owned restaurants and casinos.
The Russian ministry said, "Not only do Georgian officials fail to make good on their promises to avoid hostile rhetoric, but they go as far as hurling insults at us - at a nation that crushed German fascism, bringing liberty to the people of Europe, including Jews, with tens of thousands of them freed by Soviet soldiers from Nazi death camps."
Before the current row between the ex-Soviet neighbors, in which Russia has suspended transport and postal links to Georgia, relations were already strained over Moscow's ban on Georgian mineral water and wine imports, and its stance on Georgia's breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Tbilisi seeks to bring the regions back under its control, and accuses Russia of supporting separatist forces there. The Russian Foreign Ministry said this was the cause of the current crisis in relations with Georgia.
The ministry statement said, "Such a course can hardly help normalize Russian-Georgian relations and pull them out of the crisis in which they have found themselves through Tbilisi's fault."
Tbilisi has reportedly distanced itself from Baramidze's anti-Russian remarks, saying they were an expression of his personal opinion, and did not reflect the official position of the Georgian government.
The Russian ministry said it was not the first time Georgia's leadership had drawn parallels with anti-Semitic policies of the past.
While visiting Israel earlier this month, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Moscow's recent expulsion of Georgians was reminiscent of the "Pale of Settlement" set up by Catherine the Great in the 18th century, permitting Jews to reside permanently only in a designated part of western and southern Russia.