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Georgian officer who fled to Russia denies dismissal reports


MOSCOW, June 19 (RIA Novosti) - A Georgian officer who has requested political asylum in Russia denied on Friday claims by Georgia's Interior Ministry that he was dismissed from the coast guard service in May.

At press conference in Moscow, Lt. Alik Bzhaniya, 35, produced ID valid through 2011.

"I have documents in English. This is an ID, it is like a pass. If I am dismissed, this document is taken from me at once," he said.

The Interior Ministry said Thursday that Bzhaniya, who crossed into Abkhazia in May, was dismissed from the Georgian border police coast guard service on May 18, 2009 for repeated disciplinary violations.

The Russian Federal Migration Service said however that he was detained by Russian border guards in the former Georgian republic on May 23, and that he told them he had deliberately left Georgia to seek asylum in Russia.

The migration service said that on June 9 it had issued him with documents stating that his application for refugee status was being considered.

Russian intelligence officials have said a recording of Bzhaniya's questioning will be made public.

On Thursday, a man identifying himself as Bzhaniya made a live phone call to the Moscow-based Ekho Moskvy radio. He said he was seeking asylum in Russia, and that he had not taken part in the August attack on South Ossetia, as he was in the reserves at the time.

Russia and Georgia fought a brief war over South Ossetia last August after Georgian forces attacked the republic in a bid to bring it back under central control. Two weeks after the end of the conflict, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another former Georgian republic, as independent states. So far, only Nicaragua has followed suit.

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