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2 Researchers Barred at Tbilisi Airport, Prompting a Protest

Georgia on Tuesday denied entry to the head of the Russian State Archive and a Russian analyst as they arrived in Tbilisi to attend a conference, prompting four other Russians on their delegation to pull out of the event in protest.

Sergei Mironenko, head of the Russian State Archive and a well-known historian, and Nikolai Silayev, head of the Center of Caucasus Studies at the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Affairs, were turned back by Georgian border guards at the Tbilisi International Airport.

Both researchers planned to take part in the conference, organized by the Georgian Institute of Russian Studies, a nongovernmental organization established soon after the Russian military conflict with Georgia in August 2008. The Georgian side said it did not invite the researchers.

“I did not think that the situation would turn out this way,” Silayev told The Moscow Times by telephone. “We were told by the Georgian side that some problems might arise, but we didn’t worry about it.”

He noted that he had visited Georgia several times before and after the conflict.

Other members of the Russian delegation, which included Alexei Miller, a senior researcher with the Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences, left Georgia in protest.

It was unclear why the two researchers had been denied entry. Georgian officials offered no immediate comment, and a representative of the Georgian Institute of Russian Studies, Georgy Molodini, said he had no information on the reason.

But Shota Malakhia, head of a Georgian parliamentary commission overseeing Georgia’s territorial integrity, told the Rosbalt news service that the authorities had serious grounds to deny entry to the researchers. He did not elaborate.

Gia Tortladze, head of Mighty Georgia, a parliamentary opposition party, said the Russian delegation had included “high-ranking Russian security officials and members of Putin’s inner circle,” Georgia Online reported.

Earlier this year, Georgia denied entry to television host Maxim Shevchenko and Izvestia editor Vladimir Mamontov.

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