Russia slams Georgia's spy arrests 'provocation'

5th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Friday angrily slammed Georgia's arrest of 13 suspects, including four Russians, on accusations of spying for Moscow as a provocation aimed at tarnishing its image.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that the arrests showed Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was suffering from a "chronic spy-mania" motivated by "anti-Russian" sentiments.

"The timing of this provocation is not an accident on the eve of a number of important events," it said, referring to the NATO summit in Lisbon on 19-20 November to be attended by President Dmitry Medvedev and the OSCE summit in Astana from December 1-2.

"The upcoming NATO summit in Lisbon will give the Georgian leadership the chance to attract attention to itself from the scandal," the ministry said.

"In any case, this provocation is hardly going to have the effect that its organisers want. Everyone already understands the value of such propaganda stunts from Tbilisi."

Earlier, a foreign ministry source told the Interfax news agency that Russia was "deeply angered" by the arrests and they showed "another worsening of the anti-Russian psychosis of the Georgian leadership".

Georgia and Russia fought a brief war in August 2008 that saw Russian forces pour into the country to repel a Georgian military attempt to retake the Moscow-backed rebel region of South Ossetia.

Tensions between the two neighbours had been growing for years in the run-up to the war, including after the 2006 arrest of four Russian military officers on espionage charges. The four were eventually released and returned to Russia.

© 2010 AFP

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