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    Georgia cuts diplomatic presence in Russia

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    Georgia on Wednesday withdrew all but two of its diplomats from Russia a day after Moscow recognized Georgia's two rebel regions as independent, but Russia insisted that bilateral contacts must be maintained.

    MOSCOW, August 27 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia on Wednesday withdrew all but two of its diplomats from Russia a day after Moscow recognized Georgia's two rebel regions as independent, but Russia insisted that bilateral contacts must be maintained.

    Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze said: "the Foreign Ministry has decided to reduce to a minimum the number of its diplomats in Russia."

    Georgia has received the support of most Western powers in the ongoing standoff with Russia, which officially recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries on Tuesday. Moscow says the move was needed to protect the regions' residents from Georgian acts of aggression.

    Kalandadze said the Georgian Embassy in Moscow, which no longer has an ambassador, "will be represented by Givi Shugarov, with the rank of minister-counselor," acting as charge d'affaires.

    The embassy previously had 14 staffers including the ambassador, according to its website.

    Russia's Foreign Ministry responded to the Georgian announcement by saying it had no plans to reduce its diplomatic presence in Tbilisi, and that the Georgian move was bound to harm bilateral ties.

    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, who met with Givi Shugarov on Wednesday, said it was important to preserve working contacts, in particular through the countries' embassies.

    EU leaders will gather Monday in Brussels, where they are expected to review ties with Russia, which has been criticized by the 27-nation bloc for recognizing the two rebel republics and for using excessive force in its response to Georgia's August 8 attack on South Ossetia.

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