TBILISI (AFP) – Georgia said Wednesday that French movie star and new Russian citizen Gerard Depardieu had broken local law by visiting the Moscow-backed breakaway region of Abkhazia.
Depardieu, who is shooting a movie in the nearby Russian region of the North Caucasus, met senior officials from Abkhazia's separatist authorities during a recent visit, according to media reports.
"Any foreigner who enters the territory of Georgia via the Abkhazian sector of the Russian-Georgian border violates the law," Paata Zakareishvili, Georgia's reintegration minister, told AFP.
"As far as this particular instance is concerned, I think that Mr Depardieu doesn't deserve the honour of a minister's comment on his behaviour because he is not a political figure," he added.
Georgia considers Abkhazia, which tried to break away in an early 1990s war, part of its territory.
Russia, which fought a five-day skirmish with Georgia in 2008 over another separatist territory called South Ossetia, has thousands of troops stationed in Abkhazia -- a situation condemned by the Georgian government as a de facto occupation.
Russia is one of only a handful of countries -- including Nicaragua and Venezuela -- to officially recognise Abkhazia as an independent state.
Georgia has been looking to improve relations with Russia and its own breakaway regions since the party of President Mikheil Saakashvili, a staunch US ally, lost parliamentary polls in October to a coalition headed by now-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.
On Wednesday, Ivanishvili renewed calls for the reopening of a railway line running from the Georgian capital Tbilisi through Abkhazia to Russia.
Ivanishvili said the link -- severed in 1992 -- could help bring Tbilisi and Abkhazia closer, but added that the issue remains highly "politicised".