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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Saakashvili Confirms Uranium Seizure

NEW YORK — Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili confirmed that his country has seized a shipment of highly enriched uranium, blaming Russia for creating the instability that allows nuclear smugglers to operate in the region.

Russia dismissed the claims Thursday and said Saakashvili's comments were "unsubstantiated" and amounted to propaganda.

Saakashvili gave few details of the seizure during an interview Wednesday, saying only that the uranium was intercepted last month coming into Georgia.

The Georgian Interior Ministry said a group of foreign nationals had been detained, and the uranium was in a secure location.

The head of Georgia's nuclear safety agency, Zaal Lomatadze, said in Tbilisi that the "organized group of people tried to smuggle in a small amount of enriched uranium with the purpose of selling it to a would-be buyer."

He said Georgia had registered such smuggling "attempts" involving Russian citizens as well as people fr om the breakaway Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russia's Foreign Ministry rejected the Georgian claims outright.

"It's not serious to make such unsubstantiated statements," ministry spokesman Igor Lyakin-Frolov said. "[Saakashvili] must be fully honest in saying wh ere and when it happened, instead of using it for political purposes and propaganda."

Saakashvili's government does not control Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which declared independence after the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, and the president said the smuggling is evidence of a security black hole in the area.

Such seizures have come "mostly from the direction of Russia," Saakashvili said.

News of the uranium seizure emerged during last week's nuclear security summit in Washington, which was hosted by President Barack Obama and that Saakashvili attended. It was first reported by Britain's The Guardian newspaper.