Georgia Diplomat Injures Girl

Itar-TassA Georgian woman at Domodedovo Airport. Deportations are now under way.
Amid the ongoing standoff between Russia and Georgia, a Georgian diplomat late Monday crashed his car into an ambulance in central Moscow, injuring a 4-year-old girl.

The accident occurred near 2 Smolensky Bulvar at about 10:30 p.m., when the Opel driven by Zurab Kipiani, an adviser to Georgian Ambassador Irakly Chubinishvili, collided with an ambulance, which was taking the little girl to a hospital, said Maxim Galushko, a city traffic police spokesman.

While it was not immediately clear who was to blame, signs pointed to Kipiani. "I don't know for sure how it happened, but I think that our staffer is guilty," Chubinishvili said, Interfax reported.

The ambulance had its siren on at the time of the accident, signaling to other vehicles that the ambulance had the right of way, Galushko said.

And there have been reports contending that Kipiani, 36, was driving drunk. Kipiani was not sent to doctors for a blood-alcohol test because he has diplomatic immunity, Galushko said.

Chubinishvili said he would consult with Foreign Ministry officials in Tbilisi to decide Kipiani's future at the embassy.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman would not comment Tuesday.

"This accident is an extremely unfortunate event, especially set against the backdrop of strained Georgian-Russian relations," the ambassador said. "I hope no one thinks that the diplomat drove into the ambulance on purpose."

On Tuesday, Russian officials deported 119 Georgian migrants as part of their campaign against Georgian nationals who, they say, should not be in the country or are criminals.

This follows Moscow authorities shutting down casinos frequented by Georgians, raiding Georgian businesses and limiting the flow of money from Georgians in Russia back home. Last week, Russia cut transportation and postal ties with Georgia.

The conflict was sparked by the arrest by Georgian authorities earlier this month of four Russian military officers accused of spying. The officers have since been released.

On Tuesday, an Emergency Situations Ministry Ilyushin-62 airplane was slated to deliver the illegal Georgian migrants to Tbilisi and pick up 270 Russian citizens trying to get home, said Konstantin Poltoranin, a Federal Migration Service spokesman.

The flight was made possible after Russian officials agreed to transport the Georgians on a passenger jet, not a cargo plane, as originally planned.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered Tbilisi airport officials Sunday not to permit an Emergency Situations Ministry Ilyushin-76 cargo plane to land, saying the plane was meant "to carry cattle" and insisting that Russia provide a "civilized way of transporting Georgian citizens home."

Poltoranin dismissed Saakashvili's comments. The Ilyushin-76, he said, was equipped with seats and all the necessary safety equipment. "Obviously, we cannot offer them business class seats given the transportation blockade," he said.

There will be more Tbilisi-bound flights with Georgian deportees later this week, Poltoranin said.

 Georgian authorities Tuesday accused South Ossetian forces of shooting and injuring two policemen in the Georgian village of Kekhvi, near the separatist region, which is locked in a struggle with the central government, The Associated Press reported. South Ossetian officials denied the claim.

A spokeswoman for South Ossetia's pro-Russian government said that the officers were injured in an explosion and that South Ossetia was not involved.