Ex-Soviet Georgia says bombs found, blames Russia

By Margarita Antidze

TBILISI (Reuters) – Georgian police said they found three bombs outside government buildings in the ex-Soviet republic’s second-largest city on Thursday, and blamed Russia.

Pro-Western Georgia has often accused Russia of meddling in its affairs since the neighbors fought a five-day war in 2008 over the Moscow-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia.

The Interior Ministry said three people were arrested on suspicion of planting two bombs outside a municipal building and one outside a civil registry office in Kutaisi, 240 km (150 miles) west of the capital, Tbilisi.

“Those detained said they were ordered to put bombs outside government buildings in Kutaisi,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement. “They said that explosives were given to them by a Russian military officer.”

The Russian Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment late on Thursday. Russia denied Georgian accusations of involvement in bombings last year.

Meeting with his security council, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said the small nation’s security services must work to ward off “attempts from outside by those who are trying to shake … stability.”

Tension between Georgia and Russia has remained high since the war, which strengthened Russia’s influence over South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia.

In February, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told his security council that Georgia posed a potential threat to the safety of the 2014 Winter Olympics which Russia is hosting in Sochi, up the Black Sea coast from Georgia.

Georgian authorities have accused another Russian military officer of being behind a series of bombings last year and say criminals in Abkhazia were recruited to plant the explosives.

Two of the blasts killed one person each, one in the Black Sea coastal city of Batumi and one near an opposition party office in Tbilisi in November.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the officer had been stationed in Abkhazia but left in August and was not involved in the bombings.

(Editing by Steve Gutterman and Jon Hemming)

Ex-Soviet Georgia says bombs found, blames Russia