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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Stop Trying to Impress Biden, Diplomat Says

A report about a tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats between Georgia and Russia was nothing but a Georgian PR effort to impress U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on the eve of his visit to Tbilisi, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

Georgia’s Imedi TV reported Tuesday that Georgia had expelled two Russian diplomats on spying charges, whereupon Moscow expelled two Georgian diplomats, including Georgian Consul Zurab Pataradze.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday confirmed that two diplomats from each country had their accreditations removed but said it had happened “some months ago” and that Tbilisi had asked Moscow to keep the matter secret.

“The Georgians had asked us not to publicize it, yet now they did it themselves and I have difficulties telling you why,” Lavrov told reporters in Thailand, Interfax reported.

Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Karasin suggested that the report’s timing was connected with Biden’s arrival Wednesday for talks with the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili.

“The Georgians are clumsily trying to use the spy theme to show their high-ranking guest their presumed strength and resolve,” Karasin told Interfax.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry had no comment Wednesday, but a government source in Tbilisi said the expulsions had taken place in May.

Georgia severed diplomatic relations with Russia in August. While the embassies are closed and diplomatic and consular matters on both sides are being handled by Switzerland, a small number of Russian and Georgian diplomats continue to work in both capitals.