Georgia accuses Russia of 'terrorist' bomb campaign
Georgia accused Russia on Tuesday of organising a series of explosions in recent months which left one person dead, in the latest flaring of tensions between the two foes.
The Georgian interior ministry alleged that a Russian military intelligence officer paid a Georgian citizen to set off blasts close to targets including the US embassy and the central railway station in Tbilisi.
"This was an organised terrorist campaign," interior ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili told AFP. "It was meant to create a general sense of instability and fear in the country."
Six attacks took place between September and November, Utiashvili said. One woman died in the most recent blast, which went off near an opposition party's office in late November.
The US embassy building was not damaged when a device exploded outside its perimeter wall in September.
The main suspect, a former Georgian army officer named as Gogita Arkania, was detained on Saturday alongside five alleged accomplices.
Utiashvili alleged that a Russian military intelligence officer, Yevgeny Borisov, had blackmailed Arkania into organising the explosions using threats against his family.
He said that Arkania was paid "at least 600 dollars" for every blast he set off.
Georgian television showed an interior ministry video of Arkania allegedly confessing to staging the attacks on targets chosen by Borisov.
The blasts were intended to attract publicity and portray Georgia as dangerously volatile, Utiashvili suggested.
"The Russians did not care so much about casualties, they only cared that the explosions were shown on TV," he said.
Several more explosive devices were found during the arrests, and two further suspects are wanted for questioning. The Georgian authorities believe they are in hiding in the Russian-backed rebel territory of Abkhazia.
The arrests come a month after Georgia claimed it had smashed a major Russian-sponsored spy ring operating in the ex-Soviet country, where tensions with Moscow erupted into a brief war in August 2008.
The Russian foreign ministry said the spy arrests were motivated by the Georgian government's "anti-Russian" sentiments.
© 2010 AFP