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Reports: Georgia to Transfer Arrested Russian Officers to OSCE
/ 2 Oct.'06 / 13:18
Civil Georgia

Georgia will hand over four Russian military officers to the OSCE in Tbilisi on October 2 after talks between President Saakashvili and OSCE Chairman-in-Office Karel De Gucht, Associated Press reported, quoting the Georgian President’s Administration official Vano Noniashvili.

But later Noniashvili refused to comment on the issue.

“I do not know anything,” Noniashvili told Civil Georgia after the news broke about a possible handover.

Reuters also reported, quoting “the Georgian President’s spokesman,” that “Today there will be a ceremony of handing over the arrested Russian officers to the OSCE Chairman-in-Office.”

Vano Noniashvili only confirmed to Civil Georgia that the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, will arrive in Tbilisi on October 2 and a meeting between Gucht and President Saakashvili is scheduled for 3:30 pm local time in Tbilisi.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesperson has also declined to comment on a possible handover of the Russian officers.

Details of a possible transfer, which could put an end to the spy row between Russia and Georgia, remain unclear as of yet.

Earlier officials in Tbilisi hinted that Georgia may only extradite the arrested Russian officers if requested to do so by Georgia’s western partners.

“They [the Russian authorities] have only one resource at their disposal: to convince our foreign friends to [recommend to] us to show good will and expel these people [spy suspects] from the country,” Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili said on September 29.

Tension between Georgia and Russia came to a head on September 27 when Georgia arrested four Russian officers and eleven Georgian citizens and charged them with espionage.

Tbilisi City Court sentenced the Russian officers to two-month pre-trial detention, pending investigation, on September 29. Lawyers of the four officers have already appealed the ruling of the City Court to the Tbilisi Court of Appeals.

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