Spy Row Deepens as Russian Officers Face Detention
/ 29 Sep.'06 / 13:26
Civil Georgia

Russia said evidence against four of its military officers officially charged of spying by Georgia on September 29 has been fabricated.

The officers now face a two-month pre-trial detention pending the investigation of their case.

Meanwhile, over 100 Russian citizens, including Embassy employees and their family members, are set to board two planes of the Russian Emergency Ministry on September 29. The planes are currently waiting in the Tbilisi Airport.

Russia recalled its Ambassador to Georgia, Viacheslav Kovalenko, and announced the “partial evacuation” of its citizens because of security reasons, a move described by Tbilisi as "hysteria."

Responding to the question of when he plans to return to Georgia,  Kovalenko told reporters: “Ask [Georgian Interior Minister Vano] Merabishvili this question.”

The Russian diplomat said that his return “depends on the Georgian side.”

“First of all Georgia should immediately release the Russian officers and Georgia should apologize for the groundless arrests of the Russian officers,” Kovalenko said on September 29.

He said that he “could not understand anything” from the video and audio recordings that were unveiled by the Georgian Interior Ministry allegedly proving the involvement of four Russian officers and eleven Georgian citizens in espionage against Georgia.

But Georgia shows no signs of backing down. Georgian police continue to cordon Russian troops’ headquarters in Tbilisi. Georgia is demanding that Moscow extradite one more Russian officer suspected of spying. Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Chechelashvili said on September 28 that Russian military intelligence officer Konstantin Pichugin is sheltering in the Headquarters of the Russian Troops in Trans-Caucasus.

Meanwhile in New York, the Russian envoy to the United Nations called for the Security Council to censure Tbilisi's actions and circulated a draft resolution expressing deep concern over Tbilisi’s anti-Russian stance.

In Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin canceled a scheduled meeting with his visiting Georgian counterpart Giorgi Manjgaladze on September 29, according to the Georgian Foreign Ministry.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said on September 28 that Georgia should response to Russia’s reaction to the arrest of its military officers “without any extra anxiety and emotion.”

Influential parliamentarian Givi Targamadze said that Russia is “politicizing a purely criminal case” involving espionage allegations.

Opposition parliamentarians from the Democratic Front faction, uniting MPs from Republican and Conservative parties, have called on all politicians in Georgia to stand together in support of the government's firm stance in the spy row.

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