Georgian authorities said on Friday that four Russians and nine Georgians have been arrested for involvement in a Russian spy network. Media reports quoted Russian foreign ministry sources as saying they were "deeply outraged" by the arrests.
REUTERS - Georgia said on Friday it had dismantled a Russian spy ring two years after their brief war, arresting four Russian citizens and nine Georgians.
The espionage network was uncovered by a major counter-intelligence operation in which a mole was planted in Russian military intelligence, Georgia's Interior Ministry said.
The arrests echoed a 2006 espionage saga that strained already tense relations between the Kremlin and the pro-Western Georgian government under President Mikheil Saakashvili, culminating in war in 2008.
"It goes back years," Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said. "It started before the war."
Russia's Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed official at the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying Russia was "deeply outraged by reports about the arrest of Russian citizens in Georgia."
Georgia's Interior Ministry said "several dozen" people had been found to be working for the main intelligence department of the Russian Defence Ministry, known as GRU.
A former Soviet army officer planted by Georgia's intelligence services inside GRU "gained the trust of Russian military intelligence and began working for this agency as a liaison officer," the Interior Ministry said in a press release.
Utiashvili said the spy network had gathered mainly military information, specifically concerning the Georgian airforce.
"We can say the whole network has now been uncovered," he added.
The Russian Foreign Ministry official quoted by Interfax said the arrests appeared timed to undermine the Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon on Nov. 19-20, when a new bilateral agreement is due to be signed, and the OSCE summit in early December in Kazakhstan.
War erupted between the ex-Soviet neighbours in 2008 when Russia crushed an assault by Georgia's U.S.-trained military on the rebel region of South Ossetia after months of Russian baiting and skirmishes with separatists.
The conflict, which dragged U.S.-Russian relations to a post-Cold War low, was the culmination of five years of worsening relations between Moscow and Tbilisi after Saakashvili swept to power with the 2003 "Rose Revolution" and set Georgian sights on membership of NATO.
In 2006, Georgia arrested four Russian military officers and 12 other people on espionage charges, a move condemned by Moscow as an "outrageous escapade".
Date created : 2010-11-05