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Detention of alleged Russian spies is a “provocation”, Moscow says

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, November 8
The detention of four Russian citizens accused of spying against Georgia is a “propaganda trick”, a “provocation” and a “political farce”, Russian officials have said, following the statement of the Georgian Interior Ministry on November 5 about arresting 13 people, four Russian and 9 Georgian citizens, on charges of espionage.

The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the Georgian side of “anti Russian spy mania”. “During the last several years the Georgian leadership has fabricated such scandals several times, cynically hoping to get internal and external political dividends,” the statement of the Russian MFA reads. The Kremlin suggested that Tbilisi chose the moment “intentionally to attract attention.” “[The detention] comes ahead of important international events – the NATO Summit in Lisbon and the OSCE Summit in Astana,” according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. “The second obvious aim was to use the alleged ‘Russian threat’ to support the anti Russian hysteria in the country,” the statement reads.

Head of the Russian Duma Committee on International Affairs, Konstantin Kosachev assessed the detention of Russian citizens in Georgia as a “very serious situation,” news agency RIA Novosti reported on November 5. “The arrested people, who have no relation with special agencies, who have not been doing anything against Georgia, will be yet again declared as the enemies of the Georgian nation,” Kosachev told Russian journalists “As for the Russian citizens, I would like to remind them of the words of the Russian President, who has repeatedly stated, that Russia will defend its citizens with all available means everywhere and always,” the head of the Duma Committee said, adding that “Russia will never abandon its citizens in trouble.”

As opposed to Moscow’s view on the arrest of the alleged spies, officials in Tbilisi have assessed the case as a “victory” of Georgian counter-intelligence services over the Russian special agencies. “The detention of spies is an adequate reaction to Russia’s attempts to weaken Georgia,” MP from the National Movement Party, Goka Gabashvili said “I congratulate Georgian law enforcers with this success. It is quite complicated to reveal and eliminate such a large-scale espionage net,” the MP added.

The myth about “invincibility” of the Russian special agencies has been destroyed, the ruling party MP, Pavle Kublashvili said. He defused the allegations, that the detention of the suspected spies was intentionally coincided with the jubilee of the Russian military intelligence service. “I am sure that if we had made the official statement about the arrest, some people would have said that we used this fact to overshadow the constitutional changes issue. If we had revealed this information even earlier, some would have linked it with the local elections. And if we had made the statement [about the detention] two days later, some would claim that we are trying to drag the attention from November 7 events. In any case, the fact that we made the official statement on November 5 has nothing do to with any dates,” Kublashvili stated.

Georgian MPs have commented on the possibility of Russia’s “aggressive reaction” on detention of the alleged spies.

Some Georgian analysts have suggested that the recent detentions of the alleged Russian spies “proves” that “not everything is all right” inside the Russian special services. “It seems that they are having some serious problems,” analyst Mamuka Areshidze said “any special reaction from Russia on the arrest of the suspected spies is not expected, however we cannot rule out inappropriate steps from Moscow as well. Any case of mentioning Russia in a bad context in Georgia, causes the irritation of Moscow. So it is hard to predict the Kremlin’s reaction, but there will definitely be no new war,” the analyst added.