The Georgian interior ministry has released pictures which allegedly show Russian army officers spying. The broadcasting of the pictures of a Russian soldier apparently receiving documents is the latest escalation in the deepening conflict between the two countries. Following the arrest of six of its army intelligence officers, Russia has withdrawn its ambassador to Georgia and advised its nationals not to travel to the country.
Georgian police meanwhile are maintaining the Russian army headquarters in Tbilisi under strict surveillance amid rumours of coup attempt against President Mikhail Saakashvili. The crisis erupted yesterday when Georgia arrested four Russian intelligence officers and ten Georgian nationals on spying charges, claiming the men were involved in a serious plot to destabilise the country. Two more Russians were arrested today.
Georgia’s Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili claimed the suspects had been spying on his government’s communications with Nato – Tbilisi’s wish to join the transatlantic alliance is a major bone of contention with Moscow. Russia’s defence minister Sergei Ivanov denounced the arrests as a complete outrage and threatened to take the case to the United Nations. He said Russia would prepare an “appropriate” reaction. Moscow maintains two military bases in Georgia.