The messenger logo

Spies seek new foothold in Georgia

By Ernest Petrosyan
Thursday, November 3
Russia will respond "immediately" in case of new provocation from Georgian side, said Alexander Shlyakhturov, Chief of the Russian Military Intelligence Service (GRU) in an interview with the Russian Newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta published on November 2.

"With the use of intelligence capabilities, we are controlling the situation in those regions from where attacks or military action might be organized against the Russian Federation" Shlyakhturov said.

Asked whether Georgia was among those regions presenting a threat the GRU chief admitted that “It is well-known that Russian special services are very much unloved in Georgia. They are accused [by Georgia] of organizing subversive acts against a sovereign state. I can state responsibly, that this is absolutely not true," he said.

"However, they should know in Tbilisi that in case they prepare a new military provocation against Russia and its allies in the region, GRU will be informed of it in a timely way and inform the military-political leadership [of Russia]. Response will follow immediately,” added Shlyakhturov, revealing the logical consequence of Russian military-intelligence and military-political cooperation.

The Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili admitted in one of his recent interviews with Ekho Moskvi dedicated to this issue, that Russian spies are still operating in Georgia. He claimed however that their effectiveness is minimal in Georgia. "Not all agents working for Russia have been arrested; some are under surveillance. We are monitoring their actions and plans, and I am satisfied with the work of our counter-intelligence,” Merabishvili said.

“The effectiveness of old [spy] networks is now already minimal… Russian intelligence, including GRU, works actively to create new spy networks because they understood that the old ones have collapsed. However setting up new networks is very difficult,” added Merabishvili.

On July 6, a court in Georgia’s Black Sea town of Batumi found nine men, including three Russian citizens, guilty of espionage against Georgia and sentenced them to lengthy prison terms. Two Russian citizens and four Georgians were sentenced to eleven years in prison; one Georgian citizen was jailed for 13 years and six months and one Georgian and one Russian citizen, Yuri Skrilnikov, were sentenced to 14 years in jail.

Skrilnikov was arrested in May, 2010 over separate charges involving currency forgery; in that case he was found guilty by the court in Batumi in October, 2010 and sentenced to 18 years in prison. At the time the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the verdict as "yet another provocation against Russian citizens" who formerly served in the closed Russian military base in Batumi.