Georgia Announces Break Up of Alleged Russian Spy Ring

The Georgian government announced on Friday that it had arrested 13 people accused of spying for Russia’s armed forces. The accused include six military pilots, a naval radio operator, the founder of a non-governmental group called the Globalization Institute, and four Russian citizens. Most are accused of providing Russia with information about Georgia’s combat readiness. The arrests were made in October, but not announced until Friday, the day Russia’s military intelligence agency celebrated its professional holiday. The holiday is called Day of the Military Intelligence Officer.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry expressed angry at the arrests, accusing Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili of having “chronic spy mania”. Despite this response, no direct denials were made about any intelligence links. The Russian ministry did say that Georgia is using the arrests to hard Russia’s relations with the West ahead of two major summits: the NATO-Russia Council meeting in Portugal and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s meeting in Kazakhstan.

Georgia’s Interior Ministry said its counterintelligence department had successfully planted its own agent into the military agency, known by its Russian initals, GRU. This agent led to the exposure of dozens of people working undercover for GRU and the recent arrests. Two other people were arrested, but released under plea-bargain agreements. A video released by Georgia’s Interior Ministry shows one of the recently arrested citizens, business man Pyotr Devrishadze, explaining how he was recruited when a Russian Embassy official gave him the options of cooperation or arrest in 2006.

Otar Ordzhonikidze, deputy chief of Georgia’s counterintelligence department, said about 60 people total have been arrested in Georgia on suspicion of spying for Russia in the past six years.

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