Georgia foils Russian 'terrorist attacks': president
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Tuesday that authorities had averted a series of "very serious terrorist attacks" by six Georgians working for Russia.
"We have thwarted some very serious terrorist attacks which had been prepared, and for which they had received instructions and explosive materials," Saakashvili said in comments broadcast on Georgian television.
The Georgian interior ministry said that a Russian military intelligence officer had paid the gang's ringleader to organise a series of blasts near 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. Explosive devices intended for use in further attacks were also found in the sweep, 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 went off outside its perimeter wall in September.
The alleged ringleader, a former Georgian army officer identified 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.
Georgian television showed an interior ministry video of Arkania allegedly confessing to bombing the targets chosen by Borisov.
The blasts were intended to attract publicity and portray Georgia as dangerously volatile, Utiashvili suggested.
He said Arkania had told the ministry that "the Russians did not care so much about casualties, they only cared that the explosions were shown on TV."
Two further suspects are wanted for questioning. Georgian authorities said they were probably currently hiding in the Russian-backed rebel territory of Abkhazia.
The arrests came 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