Russians who visit Abkhazia and South Ossetia without crossing the Georgian border may be fined or jailed, a Georgian Interior Ministry official said on Friday.
"Visiting Abkhazia and South Ossetia without the knowledge of the Georgian authorities is a criminal offense," Shota Utiashvili, head of the Interior Ministry's information and analytical department, said.
Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia two weeks after a five-day war with Georgia in August 2008, which began when Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia in an attempt to bring it back under central control.
Since then, Russia has deployed thousands of troops and border guards to the tiny countries, which Georgia considers part of its sovereign territory.
Those Russian tourists who visit Abkhazia and South Ossetia without Georgia's permission may be fined up to $1,200 and those who "collude" with the authorities of these two territories may face up to 5 years behind bars, Utiashvili said.
"If it is a person who visits Abkhazia as tourist, the issue will be just about a fine. But if the person de-facto works for the government of Abkhazia, in this case imprisonment is an option," he added.
"But in 90% of cases when a person comes to Georgia with an Abkhaz [border crossing] stamp we say that he or she will have to pay a fine. Usually, we send them back," he added.
Utiashvili did not say exactly how many people are currently serving time in Georgian jails for violating its borders.
"Some people have so far been detained for violating state borders. There are Russian and Georgian nationals, as well as people from other countries among them," he said.
MOSCOW, August 27 (RIA Novosti)