Moscow wants more info about espionage suspects
By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, November 11
Moscow has demanded that Tbilisi allows Russian diplomats to meet with four Russian citizens, detained by Georgian law enforcers on espionage charges in October. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, voiced his demand late on Tuesday, saying that the Russian side should verify if the detainees are actually the citizens of Russia or not.
“There are some consular procedures, we demand consular access. We want to definitely make sure that those are our citizens,” RIA Novosti news agency quoted Russian top diplomat as saying. Lavrov said “no negotiations are being held on the issue.” “This is a provocation,” he told journalists on November 9.
On Wednesday, the Georgian Foreign Ministry confirmed having received a special note from Moscow via the Swiss Embassy, which represents Russia’s interests in Georgia since Tbilisi and Moscow cut off diplomatic ties following the 2008 war. The Russian Foreign Ministry has requested information about the four detainees in the note, according to the Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia, Nino Kalandadze.
“They [the Russian officials] have also requested to give them an opportunity to talk with their citizens,” she told BBC Russian service on November 10 “and we, of course, will ensure that the rights of the detainees are defended,” Kalandadze added. She said the note has been sent to the “competent organs.” “The Georgian Foreign Ministry does not possess the requested information, we should turn to competent organs to get the needed data,” Kalandadze noted.
Espionage scandals in Georgia and the US indicate that “Russia has not yet realized that the cold war methods are already outdated and don’t bring any results,” the Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister told BBC Russian service. She expressed hopes that the spy incident will be “soon exhausted.” “However, there are no guarantees that the investigation will not reveal new details and new people involved,” Kalandadze noted. The espionage suspects will be tried under Georgian legislation and if found guilty, will bear the responsibility according to the Georgian legislation as well, according to the Deputy Foreign Minister.
Meanwhile, on November 9, Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili commended 13 Georgian counter-intelligence officers, who participated in the operation to reveal the alleged Russian spy network in Georgia. He hailed the officers for uncovering “the spy network of the occupant country in Georgia.” “It was a very important operation, because our country is under constant pressure and under constant attempts of destabilization. Our work will continue,” Saakashvili said at the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Georgia does not want confrontation with anyone, the President said. “We are defending ourselves. If Russia shows goodwill and starts negotiations with Georgia, the Georgian side will always be ready for this,” Saakashvili noted, adding that the negotiations will only take place if Russia will talk to Georgia as a “sovereign country, which has democratically elected leadership.” “In this case we are ready to start negotiations on main issues without any preconditions in any place,” he said “however if they want to talk with the Georgian people in the language of provocations, occupation and blackmail, including the espionage network, it is their own choice. But I think that this benefit neither our future relations, which I hope to restore one day, nor their interests and regional security,” the Georgian President stated.