Belarus's call on its citizens to only enter breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia via Georgia has sparked a fresh bout of diplomatic brushfire between Minsk and Moscow.
In a move hailed in Georgia, the Belarusian foreign ministry urged its citizens on July 22 to seek consent from officials in Tbilisi in order to travel to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
"This sounds bizarre," responded Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin on July 23. Karasin added that Belarus's statement jams a spoke in Moscow's push to secure international recognition of the two territories, Russia's Vesti television reported.
"This decision is connected with Belarus's attempts to flirt with the West, with the policy of attempting to span the distance with European Union countries," Russian parliamentarian Konstantin Zatulin was quoted as saying by Kavkazskiy Uzel news portal.
The Belarusian foreign ministry retorted on July 24 that the statement had to do with the security of its own citizens and that the Russians were overreacting.
Russia pledged $500 million in aid to financial crisis-battered Belarus, but Minsk claimed that recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is the price the Kremlin wants Belarus to pay for Russian largesse. The European Union strongly urged Minsk not to risk its ties with the West by recognizing the two regions.