Sea and Postal Links With Georgia Restored

TBILISI, Georgia -- Russia is set to lift a 1 1/2 year ban on shipping and postal links with Georgia after direct flights between the two countries resumed Tuesday.

A first Russian passenger ship, the Mikhail Svetlov, will make the 12- to 14-hour trip from Sochi to the Georgian port of Batumi as soon as weather permits, Nugzar Katamadze, a spokesman for the Batumi port authority, said Thursday. The ship was to have departed this evening.

"This is a very positive step," said Irakli Taktakishvili, head of Georgia's Transport Administration. "People can once more get on a boat and travel affordably to Russia instead of having to go through a third country."

Russia cut road, rail, air and sea links with Georgia, halted postal service and blocked money transfers in October 2006. The dispute erupted when Georgia arrested four Russian servicemen a month earlier, accusing them of spying.

Postal service between Russia and Georgia will be restored in "two or three weeks," Interfax reported Wednesday, citing Russian Post chief Andrei Kazmin.

Georgian Post received notification from Russia of "a proposed resumption of postal links in the immediate future," general director Davit Khutsishvili said.