Armenia Concerned About Russian-Georgian Crisis

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia on Friday expressed serious concern at the escalating crisis between neighboring Georgia and Russia and again denied any responsibility for Russian espionage alleged by Tbilisi. "Armenia has always been and remains concerned about the tense Russian-Georgian relations," said Foreign Minister Vartan. "We are all the more concerned now because that tension is rising day by day. We are closely following the developmen’s." The crisis was sparked on Wednesday by the arrest in Tbilisi of four Russian army officers and over a dozen Georgian citizens accused of spying for Russia’s GRU military intelligence service. Moscow has vehemently denied the charges and condemned the arrests as a "provocation." Oskanian insisted that Armenia has played no part in the spy scandal despite Georgian allegations that the arrested Russia’s acted on orders from a senior GRU agent based in Yerevan. "True, Armenia’s name has been mentioned, but that does not concern Armenia," he said. "We have to wait and see further developmen’s. We are primarily concerned about the escalation and — we hope things won’t get to that point — break-up of Russian-Georgian relations," he added. The tensions, meanwhile, continued to mount on Friday as Russia began pulling out some of its diplomats and their families from Georgia and urged the UN Security Council to put pressure on Tbilisi. Georgian police, for their part, continued to surround a Russian military headquarters that controls two Russian military bases stationed in Georgia. Meanwhile, Russia recalled its ambassador from Georgia Thursday and ordered the evacuation of some of its officials in a crisis triggered by the detention of four Russian army officers on spying charges. Moscow also told its citizens not to travel to Georgia. "We have demanded the immediate release of our citizens and we will achieve this with all the means available to us," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in televised commen’s. In New York, Russia urged the UN Security Council to put pressure on the Tbilisi government to withdraw its troops from the Kodori Gorge in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia region, a valley Moscow says Georgia is trying to seize. Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili told journalists that Georgian authorities had proof of a spy network and released video footage purporting to show the officers conspiring with Georgian citizens. One showed an exchange of money. "We will produce evidence to confirm that all detained Russian officers were personally involved in spying, were personally getting secret information, were creating a spy network, were enlisting Georgian citizens and were engaged in other illegal activities," he said.

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