Russia Says ‘Anti-Russian Hysteria” Sparks Georgian Spy Arrests

Posted July 12th, 2011 at 3:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Russia says “anti-Russian hysteria” is on the rise in Georgia, sparking last week's arrests of three photographers Georgia accused of spying for Moscow.

The Russian foreign ministry said Tuesday that Georgia is trying to convince the international community and its own population that it is “flooded with Russian spies.” Foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich voiced sympathy for innocent Georgians he said are “hostages of anti-Russian paranoia.”

On Saturday, Tbilisi accused the photographers of handing Russia secret information about Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's travel plans and meetings as well as the layout of the presidential building. Among those arrested was Mr. Saakashvili's personal photographer, Irakli Gedenidze.

Russia and Georgia, which has sought closer ties with the West, fought a brief war in 2008. Russian troops continue to occupy South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two breakaway territories that have declared their independence. Each is within Georgia's internationally recognized territory.

Tbilisi has regularly accused Moscow of operating espionage activities in Georgia. Courts in Georgia have convicted several people of spying for Russia, most recently last week when a Russian and eight Georgians were convicted of espionage and sentenced to 11-to-14-year terms.