Georgia arrests 4 Russian citizens on spy charges

Georgia said on Friday it had dismantled a Russian spy ring, arresting four Russian citizens.

Updated: Nov 05, 2010, 15:27 PM IST

Tbilisi: Georgia said on Friday it had dismantled a Russian spy ring, arresting four Russian citizens and nine Georgians two years after the ex-Soviet neighbors fought a brief war.
The Georgian Interior Ministry said in a press release that a major counter-intelligence operation had uncovered "several dozen" people working for the main intelligence department of the Russian Defence Ministry, known as GRU.

It said Georgia`s intelligence services had planted a former Soviet army officer in GRU, "who gained the trust of Russian military intelligence and started working for this agency as a liaison officer."

The announcement has echoes of a 2006 spy saga between the two countries, when Georgia detained four Russian military officers and 12 other people on espionage charges.

Condemned by Russia at the time as "outrageous," the arrests further strained relations between Moscow and the pro-Western Georgian government under President Mikheil Saakashvili.

War broke out in August 2008, when Russia crushed an assault by Georgia`s U.S.-trained military on the rebel region of South Ossetia, launched after months of worsening skirmishes and Russian baiting.

Information leaked last week about the arrest of 20 people, described by security sources as Georgian citizens suspected of spying for Russia. The Interior Ministry at the time declined to comment.

Bureau Report