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Georgian Activists Seek Sochi Olympics Boycott on Border Dispute

Oct. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Georgian non-governmental organizations are calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, saying Russia is encroaching on its borders.

Transparency International Georgia and the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy are organizing a petition to the government to pull its teams out of the Sochi Olympics if Russian troops don’t stop work to delineate the breakaway South Ossetia region’s border with Georgia, according to Nino Lomjaria, head of the democracy group.

“Boycotting the Olympics gives Georgia a perfect opportunity all over again to show what Russia is doing here,” Lomjaria said today by phone. Russia is “proceeding with further aggressive actions like putting up barbed wire across villages, splitting them in parts at the South Ossetian border, and this is unacceptable.”

About 5,000 people have already signed the petition, which will be sent to the prime minister and the Olympic committee, she said. The country has a population of about 4.6 million.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry last month criticized Georgia for risking regional security by attempting to provoke “hysteria” over measures by South Ossetia to solidify its border, according to a statement on its webite.

Nodar Kumaritashvili, a 21-year-old Georgian luge racer, died during preparations for the 2010 winter Olympics in Canada. He was one of eight members of the Georgian team. Four athletes -- three skiers and figure skater Elene Gedevanishvili -- are scheduled to attend next year’s event, which starts Feb. 7.

Georgian Criticism

Georgia’s government called for Russia to avoid “politicizing” the games after the torch was carried by a Russian pilot who served in the 2008 war. “Georgia will observe in the future if the Olympics will become more politicized,” Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s office said in an e-mailed statement Oct. 7.

Russia routed Georgia’s army in an August 2008 war over South Ossetia, then recognized it and another region, Abkhazia, as independent countries. Georgia maintains that Russia occupied the regions after the conflict.

To contact the reporter on this story: Helena Bedwell in Tbilisi at hbedwell@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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