Summit of ex-Soviet republics postponed amid Russia-Georgia discord

The Associated Press

MINSK, Belarus A summit of a frayed grouping for former Soviet republics has been postponed by more than a month at the initiative of heavyweights Russia and Kazakhstan, an official of the Commonwealth of Independent States said Tuesday.

The summit, which was to have been held Friday in Minsk, has been put off until late November, said a representative of the CIS headquarters in the Belarusian capital, Tatyana Mikhailevich.

She said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose countries are among the wealthiest and most influential in the 12-member organization of former Soviet republics, had requested the postponement, but that no reason was given.

Putin's press service confirmed the summit had been postponed until late November, but gave no reason. Mikhailevich said the exact date had not been set.

The postponement came at a time of extreme tension between Russia and Georgia following the arrest of Russian officers on espionage charges in Georgia last month. Despite their swift release, Russia imposed sweeping transport sanctions on its smaller neighbor and has been expelling Georgians in Russia illegally.

The dispute highlights a growing divide in the CIS between nations closely allied with Moscow - and increasingly wary of the West - and those seeking to shed Russian influence and turn toward Europe and the United States, chiefly Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.

Georgians and Ukrainians were among the many people arrested or accused of plotting against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during widely criticized March election in which he won a third term, and their presidents may be wary of attending a summit hosted by the authoritarian leader.