Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili said in a live interview to the Rustavi 2 television’s news program Kurieri (Courier) on September 29 that Russia has suffered with a major blow after Georgia has arrested its four officers suspected of espionage.
“Myth about its [Russia’s] powerful intelligence and its omnipotence has been destroyed and this myth now only belongs to history,” Merabishvili said.
Merabishvili also said that Russia’s ongoing maneuvers in North Ossetia and planned navy exercises on the Black Sea should not be overestimated. “Minor provocations” in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is the only thing Russia can respond with.
Q.: According to the international law, should Russia inform Georgia when it plans such large-scale military exercises near the Georgian border?
A.: At first I want to say that these maneuvers are over-dramatized. I want to tell you, that because of the huge international support, including among the international organizations and western media, Georgia has never been as protected as it is now in our recent history. At the same time Russia has never been so unprotected and weak as it is now, because Russia is very confused and is undertaking inappropriate and spontaneous steps. Russia [military] maneuvers are an ordinary face-saving action. Military exercises neither in North Ossetia, nor on the Black Sea pose any threat to Georgia’s security. The only thing which might happen is to continue minor provocations in the Tskhinvali Region [South Ossetia] and Abkhazia so that to redirect attention towards these regions. So I do not see any serious threat in Russia’s actions.
Russia is very confused. As you see that Russia’s reaction is changing every day and every hour. They are so confused that they have sent to Georgia aircrafts with the capacity to transport 800 passengers to evacuate just 100 persons.
I absolutely understand reasons behind these [actions]. This is very unusual condition for Russia. Russia always had an advantage, because it had better access to the international media, it had levers in the UN and in other international organization, it had advantage because it could manipulate inside Georgia, in Tbilisi, Tskhinvali and Abkhazia through staging provocations, but today the entire world saw that Russia is just an ordinary helpless state and the myth about its powerful intelligence and its omnipotence has been destroyed and this myth now only belongs to history. Of course for Russians it is especially painful that this blow was made by Georgia.
I do not think that Russia will refrain from any major provocations and even if it decides to undertake a step of this kind Russia itself will be harmed. I expect certain provocations mainly in Tskhinvali and Abkhazia. Our police forces are mobilized and we will not yield to these provocations.
Q.: If the court finds them [Russian spy suspects] guilty, will the Russian officers spend their term of sentence in Georgia, or they will be extradited to Russia?
A.: This is not up to the Interior Ministry to decide.
One thing is clear: they are now in the Georgian penitentiary and I am sure that the Georgian court will rule fair judgment.
I think that those foreign agents are not as alarming for us as those citizens of Georgia, who were selling Georgia in exchange of a very low payment. I think discussion and intensive work should be started in Georgia with those people who have been working with the foreign special services for many years and there are lots of people of this kind in Georgia. These people bear lion’s share of responsibility for those defeats which Georgia has suffered in past 15 years.
Q.: Where is now wanted [Russian military officer Konstantin] Pichugin [who is also suspected by Georgia of espionage] and how are you going to capture him?
A.: According to our information Pichugin is still on the territory of the Russian base [Headquarters of the Russian Troops in Trans-Caucasus located in Tbilisi]. I want to reiterate that we respect international law, so we can not carry out operation on this territory [which enjoys with the diplomatic immunity]. Moreover, Russia has enough levelers to take this person beyond the Georgian borders. You know that the diplomatic cars as well enjoy with the immunity and several cars of this kind entered the base territory, but despite of this fact, as far as we know, this person still remains on the base [referring to the Russian Troops Headquarters in Tbilisi]. We have blocked the territory and we are only checking papers [of those entering and coming out from the Headquarters].
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