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Georgians held on spying charges

By Ernest Petrosyan
Monday, November 1
“Georgian police arrested 20 people on suspicion of spying for Russia,” reported Reuters on October 29. Citing an anonymous source in the Georgian security services, Reuters said that the detainees, all Georgian citizens, are suspected in being a part of a developing spy network that was trying to gain confidential information for Moscow.

The Interior Ministry and other Georgian officials refrained from confirming or denying this information. However later on Friday evening, the Head of Analytical Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Shota Utiashvili said to Reuters that the MIA will hold a briefing on the issue this coming week.

Visiting Vietnam, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also did not leave this issue without attention. Speaking from Hanoi, Lavrov told Interfax, “As far as I know, we are talking about the Georgian citizens. We do not know anything more than that.”

It is likely the incident will increase the tension between the two countries, which still remains following the August 2008 between the two countries. Georgian officials recently warned about the threat of Russia’s intelligence services; meanwhile Russia blamed Georgia of supporting Islamist militaries in the Northern Caucasus. Earlier this year, in March, a North Caucasus military court found two Russian lieutenant colonels guilty of spying for Georgia, the latest in a long line of such cases.

Speaking to The Messenger Georgian political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze said that the picture is ambiguous and will affect already existing negative relations. “Recently, the Georgian President has continuously repeated that officials of the two countries should meet for negotiations, and it would be reasonable not to create such resonance in press,” stated Sakvarelidze. He added that this issue might be related to November opposition rallies. Another analyst, Paata Zakareishvili said that Russia is definitely interested in having a network of spies in Georgia in order to have a clear picture of military and political developments. “There are many worthless people who would agree to work for Russians for a particular fee, although this government suspects everyone of spying including myself, and people already do not believe in these stories,” commented Zakareishvili.