Nov 12, 2010

Georgian counter-intelligence service: 'More Russian spy networks operate in Georgia'

TBILISI, GEORGIA - Recently uncovered Russian military intelligence's (GRU) spy network is not the only one operating in Georgia and the Georgian counter-intelligence service is keeping a close eye on others too, Vano Merabishvili, Georgia's influential interior minister, said on November 11.

"There are at least three [Russian] secret services working in Georgia: GRU, FSB [Federal Security Service] and SVR [Foreign Intelligence Service - Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki]," he said in an interview with the Georgian television station Imedi.

He said apart of recently exposed network, GRU still maintains other networks in Georgia, which "under our surveillance".

Imedi TV aired on Thursday evening portions from the interview, full version of which, the broadcaster said, will be shown on Saturday evening followed by live sit-down interview with Merabishvili in TV studio.

Merabishvili also said, that Russia's reaction to the recent spy row was far more moderate than in 2006, when Tbilisi arrested four Russian military officers on espionage charges. At the time Russia cut air, sea, land and railway links, as well as postal communication with Georgia and deported over 2,300 Georgians.

Merabishvili said that at the time Russia regarded Georgia as "kind of fourth grade country" and it was especially insulting for Russia when the country, which it deemed as "nothing", captured four of its spies.

Russia's reaction now was different, he said, because Russia "has gotten used to the fact" that Georgia is capable of uncovering its agents.

"Russia now had an adequate reaction... As I remember when the Russian spy network was uncovered recently in the United States, the Russian President's reaction to that was more aggressive than in case of Georgia," he said

"Believe me the next time we will expose thier agents, Russia may not have any reaction at all," Merabishvili said.

Moscow's immediate reaction to Georgia's announcement that it had arrested alleged spies, including four Russian citizens, was a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry saying that Tbilisi's "spy story" was "a provocation", aimed at attracting international attention ahead of NATO and OSCE summits. It also said: "The Saakashvili’s regime suffers from chronic spy-mania on the anti-Russian grounds."