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Georgia orders Russia 'spies' held

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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- A Georgian court has ruled that four Russian servicemen accused of espionage will remain in custody for at least two months despite Moscow's call for them to be freed.

In two sessions Friday the court also formally issued spy charges against the officers, whose arrests have sparked a crisis in already tense relations between pro-Western Georgia and its powerful neighbor Russia.

The court also charged with high treason seven Georgians, who were suspected of involvement in the spy ring, and ordered them held for two months.

One officer was released to officials at a Russian army base headquarters Friday, but officials declined to give details, Interfax reported.

The Russians are being held in detention facilities in Georgia, Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili said, and the Russian consul has been allowed to visit them.

Merabishvili also said the spy ring was behind a bomb blast last year in Gori that killed three and wounded 13 and said the network was well-funded. He said authorities would soon make available evidence proving the servicemen's guilt.

Meanwhile, Russia recalled its ambassador to Georgia and pledged to use all available means to win the release of the five servicemen. Additionally, according to the Interfax news agency, the Russian Consul has suspended issuing visas for Georgians to enter Russia, and officials have asked the U.N. Security Council to discuss the situation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued a statement on the Foreign Ministry's Web site calling the charges "groundless," and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov called them "moronic."

The Federation Council, Russia's senate, also weighed in, saying that Georgia's accusations could "lead to war," according to Interfax.

A Georgian police officer stands outside Russia's military HQ in Tblisi.



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