GEORGIA’S arrest of 13 people on charges of spying for Moscow has “deeply angered” Russia, a Russian foreign ministry source has told the Interfax news agency.
“We are deeply angered by the reports about the arrests of Russian citizens in Georgia and we are currently studying the situation,” the source said.
“This is a provocation showing another worsening of the anti-Russian psychosis of the Georgian leadership,” said the diplomat, who was not named.
Georgia earlier announced it had dismantled a major Russian spy ring and arrested 13 suspects, including four Russian citizens, who allegedly fed sensitive military information to Moscow.
Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said the suspects, who included Georgian military officers, had been providing secret information on Georgia’s military to the Russian military’s foreign intelligence service, the GRU.
“This is a huge deal in terms of Georgia securing its military intelligence and a big blow to the GRU,” Utiashvili told Agence France-Presse, adding that Georgian security services had managed to infiltrate the spy ring.
The Russian foreign ministry official said Georgia was seeking to stain Russia’s reputation ahead of the NATO summit in Lisbon on 19-20 November to be attended by President Dmitry Medvedev and the OSCE summit in Astana from December 1-2.
Georgia and Russia fought a brief war in August 2008 that saw Russian forces pour into the country to repel a Georgian military attempt to retake the Moscow-backed rebel region of South Ossetia.
Tensions between the two neighbours had been growing for years in the run-up to the war, including after the 2006 arrest of four Russian military officers on espionage charges. The four were eventually released and returned to Russia.