Georgia's Ministry of Justice said Monday it has filed a lawsuit against Russia with the European Court of Human Rights for the alleged illegal deportation of Georgian citizens last year.
"The lawsuit is based on thousands of instances of serious violations of human rights of Georgian citizens and ethnic Georgians during their deportation from Russia," the ministry said in an official statement.
Russia and Georgia became caught up in an intense diplomatic row last September when the arrest of four Russian officers in Tbilisi on spying charges prompted Russia to deport hundreds of Georgians, cut off mail and transport links with Tbilisi as well as crack down on 'illegal' Georgian businesses.
Mikhail Kamynin, the Russian Foreign Ministry's official spokesman, said that "such actions by Tbilisi officials will not help [the two countries] normalize bilateral relations, which Russia is striving for."
Vissarion Bokhashvili, Georgia's representative at the Strasbourg Court, is expected to make a statement on the lawsuit later Tuesday.
According to unofficial information, the Georgian side will present evidence of deported citizens who allegedly suffered from inhumane treatment at Moscow's police detention centers, as well as documents proving that their stays in Russia were legal.
Relations between Georgia and Russia have been strained ever since the Western-leaning government of President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in 2003.
In addition to tensions over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Saakashvili has pledged to restore to Georgia proper, Georgia's ambition to join the Western NATO military alliance has been sharply criticized by Russia.
Last March, Russia banned Georgian wine and mineral water, dealing a heavy blow to the ex-Soviet republic's fragile economy.
Following the spying row, the situation deteriorated further when Tbilisi subsequently threatened to withdraw its support for Russia's WTO bid.