|Georgian president accuses Vladimir Putin of personally orchestrating spying operations|
|July 12, 2011|
By Andrew Osborn in Moscow
Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian President, has accused Vladimir Putin of personally masterminding Kremlin spying operations against his Western-friendly country.
Mr Saakashvili made the allegation against Russia's prime minister after his own official photographer and two other photographers were arrested and charged with spying for Russian military intelligence, which is known as GRU.
"Nobody doubts that we are the number one (spying) target for a huge country run by KGB agents," he told the Ekho Moskvy radio station.
"I have many times seen and heard, including from him personally, how Putin plans spying operations, and how he knows the names of the operatives involved. He gets enormous satisfaction from planning them."
Mr Saakashvili, whose country fought and lost a brief war against Russia in 2008, alleged that Mr Putin, a former KGB agent in East Germany, had even phoned him up in the past to taunt him with detailed intelligence information to show how successfully Russian spies had infiltrated his country.
"Russia officially wants to topple our government," Mr Saakashvili said.
"This is not about paranoia. These (spy) games are going on." His allegations came as Georgian investigators claimed that three photographers including Irakli Gedenidze, Mr Saakashvili's personal photographer, had passed secret information to Russian military intelligence for cash.
The information included floors plans for Mr Saakashvili's presidential palace as well as confidential information about his schedule and meetings, it was alleged. Mr Gedenidze has already made a partial confession on Georgian TV, claiming that he was blackmailed into treason, while the two other photographers have firmly denied any wrongdoing.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has dismissed the scandal as the fruit of one of Mr Saakashvili's "maniacal fits," while Russian state media have suggested that the affair looks like a fabricated anti-Russian smear. Relations between the two countries remain strained with Russian troops garrisoned on twenty per cent of Georgian territory and the Kremlin nervous about Georgian aspirations to join the EU and Nato.
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