Georgia aided rebel plot, says Russia


MOSCOW CLAIMS to have foiled a plot by Chechen rebels to attack the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi with the help of Georgia’s special services.

Georgia dismissed the allegation and called it Russia’s latest move to provoke tensions between the neighbouring states, who fought a brief war four years ago.

Russian security services said they had found weapons including shoulder-launched missiles and explosives in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, which is close to Sochi.

Moscow officials said “the militants planned to transfer the weapons to Sochi between 2012 and 2014 and use them for terrorist acts during the preparation and hosting of the Olympic Games”.

Russia claimed the attacks were planned by Doku Umarov, the most prominent militant leader in the Russian North Caucasus, “while maintaining close contacts with the Georgian special services”. The de facto Abkhaz authorities said they had arrested the head of a local militant group linked to Umarov’s organisation.

Abkhazia broke from Tbilisi’s control in the early 1990s and, after supporting it for years, Moscow recognised it as an independent state in 2008, following a five-day war between Russia and Georgia over another rebel Georgian province, South Ossetia. Only a small handful of states recognise the sovereignty of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Moscow has thousands of soldiers in both regions, a situation that Tbilisi and its western allies describe as a Russian “occupation”. Local leaders and the Kremlin insist the Russian military presence is needed to deter Georgian attack.

“This allegation is completely absurd,” Georgian interior ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said of the Sochi claims.

Noting that Vladimir Putin had returned to the Russian presidency this week, Mr Utiashvili said the accusations showed he was “not working towards improving relations between Russia and Georgia, and perhaps just to the contrary. Now we are seeing signs of what his policy will be.”

Mr Utiashvili said Tbilisi was “very concerned” by recent incidents involving Abkhazia, including a dispute between local officials and EU monitors who patrol the Georgian side of the de-facto border. He stressed that Russia regularly accused Georgia of helping militant groups without ever providing evidence.

“This is a Russian provocation aimed at escalating the situation. We must be very vigilant,” Mr Utiashvili said. There is also concern in Georgia over Russian plans to hold military exercises near their shared border in September.