updated 11/2/2006 7:55:51 AM ET 2006-11-02T12:55:51

Russia’s state-controlled natural gas monopoly said Thursday that it would more than double the price it charges Georgia, further heightening tensions between the ex-Soviet neighbors.

OAO Gazprom said in a statement that it will charge $230 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, compared with the $110 that it charges now.

Tensions rose between the two countries after Georgia briefly detained four purported Russian spies in late September. Moscow responded with a transport and postal blockade on Georgia and a crackdown on Georgian migrants living in Russia, whose financial remittances help sustain their homeland’s economy.

The gas announcement signals Russia’s continued recalcitrant stance even as Georgia’s foreign minister, Gela Bezhuashvili, visits Moscow in the hope of easing the conflict.

Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have steadily deteriorated since the 2004 election of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who has sought to take the Caucasus nation out of the Russian orbit, bolster ties with the West and join NATO in 2008.

Moscow has shrugged off Western calls for lifting the sanctions against Georgia, saying it was acting because the Georgian government is plotting to bring the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia back into the fold by force — allegations Georgia denies.

Gazprom has consistently argued that price increases for former Soviet neighbors are a long overdue recalibration toward market pricing. However, the increases have been widely seen in the West as part of the Kremlin’s attempts to rein in ex-Soviet neighbors.

Gazprom temporarily switched off the gas it supplies to Ukraine at the start of this year after Kiev refused to accept an abrupt price hike that was seen as a calculated blow to its Western-leaning government.

Since the appointment of Kremlin-friendly Prime Minister Vikor Yanukovich, however, Ukraine has been able to negotiate a much more gentle price rise for 2007.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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