Georgia denies plan to meet Putin during Sochi Olympics

BOCHAROV RUCHEI, Russia/ TBILISI Thu Feb 6, 2014 12:25pm EST

Newly elected Georgian President Georgy Margvelashvili delivers a speech during his inauguration ceremony in Tbilisi November 17, 2013. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

Newly elected Georgian President Georgy Margvelashvili delivers a speech during his inauguration ceremony in Tbilisi November 17, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili

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BOCHAROV RUCHEI, Russia/ TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgia denied on Thursday that President Georgy Margvelashvili would travel to Sochi for the Olympic Games after the Kremlin said he could meet Russia's Vladimir Putin there in what would be the neighbors' first top encounter since a 2008 war.

"The Georgian official delegation will not attend the Olympic Games in Sochi," Vano Machavariani, the Georgian president's foreign policy adviser, told Reuters. "Georgia will be represented in Sochi by our sportsmen and representatives of the Georgian Olympic Committee," he said.

Georgia, crisscrossed by oil and natural gas pipelines, fought a five-day war with Russia in 2008 under its former President Mikheil Saakashvili over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Margvelashvili, who replaced Saakashvili last year, has promised to press ahead with European integration efforts in the former Soviet South Caucasus nation, which Moscow wants to keep under its influence.

Following the war, Russia has recognized the two breakaway regions as independent, a move which caused Tbilisi to cut diplomatic ties with its former Soviet master.

(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk in Bocharov Ruchei and Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska)

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