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Russia Accuses Tbilisi of 'Subversive Terrorist Activities'
2008.05.16 14:45

Russian security service has claimed it detained a man working for the Georgian intelligence service, the Russian news agencies reported on May 16.

The Russian news agency reported quoting unnamed source from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) that 34-year-old Georgian-born Russian citizen, Ramzan Turkoshvili, was recruited by the Georgian intelligence service with “direct participation of chief of the terrorist group in [Georgia’s] Pankisi gorge, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili.”

“In particular, he [alleged spy] was to organize contact between Georgian special forces and illegal armed groups in Russia.”

“Chiefs of the terrorist groups are financing gangs [in Russia’s North Caucasus], coordinating their actions in preparing terrorist acts and are recruiting Muslim youth residing in Georgia’s Akhmeta district [where Pankisi gorge is located],” Itar-Tass news agency quoted unnamed source of the Russian security service.

Interfax news agency reported unnamed source that the case had “confirmed participation of the Georgian secret services in subversive terrorist activities in the North Caucasus.”

According to the reports alleged spy was arrested in North Caucasus, but gave no further details.

The Georgian Interior Ministry has strongly denied the report as misinformation and said it aimed at discrediting Georgia and also at revitalizing the so called Pankisi problem.

Pankisi gorge in north-eastern Georgian mountainous region, close to the Russian border, became a major irritant in Russo-Georgian relations starting from late 2001 and in following years. Over 7,000 Chechen refugees settled in Pankisi gorge shortly after the second war was launched in Chechnya in 1999. Their number dwindled since then and currently there are slightly over 1,000 Chechen refugees in Pankisi gorge.

In January 2002 the Georgian authorities admitted that Pankisi gorge was a safe haven for militants and criminal gangs, engaged in kidnappings and drug trafficking. As a result the Georgian Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Security launched a joint anti-criminal operation. One local resident was killed after, as Tbilisi claimed, Russian jet dropped a bomb in Pankisi gorge in August, 2002. In 2003 the Georgian authorities announced that the anti-criminal operation was over and the gorge was no longer a safe haven for militants and criminals.

Last time when Russian officials renewed alleging presence of Chechen rebels in Pankisi gorge was in January, 2007. Head of the department at the Russian Federal Security Service in charge of border protection, said at that time that “certain number of Chechen militants remained in Panksi.” He, however, also said that not a single case of an attempt by militants to infiltrate from Georgia into Russia was reported in 2005 and 2006. 

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