Georgia charges photojournalists with spying for Russia

Irakli Gedenidze

Irakli Gedenidze

Three well-known Georgian photojournalists have been arrested and charged with conducting espionage on behalf of the Russian Federation. They include Irakli Gedenidze, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s personal photographer, as well as Giorgi Abdaladze, who works for Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The leader of the alleged spy ring is Zurab Kurtsikidze, who works for Frankfurt-based European Pressphoto Agency. All three were arrested in early morning raids last Thursday, during which their homes and offices were searched by Georgian counterintelligence officers. A Georgian government statement issued the following day stated that the searches uncovered confidential information about the daily itinerary of Mr Saakashvili, as well as a classified diagram of the Presidential office. According to the statement, the classified documents were secretly accessed and photographed by Gedenidze and Abdaladze, who then passed them on to Kurtsikidze. He in turn turned them over to the GRU, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Defense Ministry. Along with the statement, Georgian government prosecutors released surveillance recordings of telephone exchanges between the three photographers, in which they are heard discussing payment arrangements in return for classified documents surrendered to the Russians. Georgian government television also aired a video statement by Kurtsikidze, in which he appears to admit that he knew that the photographs he gave Kurtsikidze would end up in Moscow, and says that he was financially compensated for his assistance. He also states, however, that his participation in the spy ring resulted from blackmail. Speaking about the espionage revelations, Georgian leader Saakashvili, who heads the country’s pro-Western government, said that “nobody has any doubts that we are the first target for a giant country run by former KBG agents”. He was clearly referring to Russia, with which Georgia fought a war in 2008. Lawyers representing the three photojournalists denounced their clients’ arrests as a case of government intimidation against media democracy, and said they will initiate a global campaign between now and September, when the trial is expected to begin.

About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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