Georgia's counter-intelligence service arrested four Russian military intelligence (GRU - Glavnoye Razvedovatelnoye Upravlenie) officers and eleven citizens of Georgia who were cooperating with Russian intelligence services, Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili said on September 27.
"This group, which operated in Georgia, was commanded from Yerevan by Anatoly Sinitsin. The latter was behind the February 1, 2005 terrorist act in Gori," Merabishvili said.
He said that the group of GRU operatives has been carrying out intelligence operations in Batumi and Tbilisi “for months and years.”
“We had information that a serious provocation was planned by this group, so we decided to promptly capture these persons in order to prevent provocations,” Merabishvili added.
He said that two Russian intelligence operatives were arrested in Tbilisi - GRU colonel Alexander Sava, who was allegedly the chief of the group operating in Georgia, and Dimitri Kazantsev.
Two others - Alexander Zavgorodny and Alexander Baranov - were arrested in Batumi, the Georgian Interior Minister said.
Earlier on September 27 officials from the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi were quoted in Russian media sources as saying that four senior Russian officers were missing in Georgia.
The Georgian Interior Minister also said that GRU officer Konstantine Pugachin “is currently hiding in the headquarters of the Russian Troops in the Trans-Caucasus (GRVZ) in Tbilisi.”
“Our police forces have sealed off the headquarters – you know that this territory still has diplomatic immunity, so we have no possibility to undertake any operation on this territory. So our counter-intelligence department has asked the GRVZ command to hand over this agent to the Georgian side,” Merabishvili said.
“I am sure that Russia will spare no efforts to allow Konstantine Pichugin to flee to Russia, but we are categorically demanding his extradition,” Merabishvili said.
He also said that eleven Georgian citizens have been arrested, and listed their names: Artashes Baloyan, Viktor Orekhov, Alexander Zalinian, Victor Zabrodin, Yuri Zabrodin, Goderdzi Dzuliashvili, Gia Kakauridze, Aziz Aslaniani, Karen Aboyan, Petre Apramian and Beso Gabaidze.
Merabishvili said that one more person - Zia Samnidze – is currently wanted by Georgian law enforcers.
He said the group’s major sphere of interest was gathering information about Georgia’s armed forces, Georgia’s NATO integration, energy security, opposition parties and non-governmental organizations, military procurements, sea ports and railways, and Georgian troops stationed in the conflict zones.
“We have managed to neutralize a very dangerous group. We will provide additional information later,” Merabishvili said.