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Georgian journalist says he spied for Russia
Inside information on president’s life sold to Russians, government says
TBILISI, Georgia — The personal photographer for the Georgian president was shown on television Saturday confessing to supplying a colleague with secret information that was then sent to a Russian secret service.
Irakli Gedenidze confessed to giving another photographer, Zurab Kurtsikidze of the European Pressphoto Agency, details of the president’s itinerary, motorcade route and offices for unspecified remuneration. His wife, Natia, said she knew her husband was friends with Mr. Kurtsikidze and sent him the details of his bank account, but she did not confess to taking part in their dealings.
Mr. Gedenidze, Mr. Kurtsikidze and photographer Georgy Abdaladze were charged with espionage early Saturday. Mrs. Gedenidze was accused of abetting espionage and was released on bail, according to a statement from the Georgian government late Saturday.
Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Georgy Bukhrashvili told reporters Saturday that investigators believe Mr. Kurtsikidze had “connections” with Russia’s military intelligence unit, GRU, and hired the other two photographers to provide the secret information.
Mr. Bukhrashvili said the two men had taken pictures of the secret documents and then sent them to Mr. Kurtsikidze to dispatch to Moscow. The photographs were found in the two men’s apartments, he said.
The government said investigators found classified images on the computers of Messrs. Kurtsikidze, Gedenidze and Abdaladze, including floor plans of the Presidential Palace and information about the president’s itinerary, visits and meetings.
European Pressphoto Agency vehemently denied the accusations. Editor-in-chief Cengiz Seren told the Associated Press on Saturday that as part of his work, Mr. Kurtsikidze “would have had programs of the president’s visit and things like that.”
Some photographers in Georgia have worked out a pool system where they can pay a colleague for permission to use a photo taken at an event they were not able to attend. They routinely exchange banking details.
Mr. Seren said EPA’s accountants are going to find all the documents related to any money that was transferred to Mr. Kurtsikidze and to other photographers through him. EPA is going to submit the information to the appropriate authority, Mr. Seren told the AP in a phone interview from Frankfurt.
Mr. Gedenidze, the presidential photographer, said that he had to agree to Mr. Kurtsikidze’s final request to find information on Georgian secret services after the EPA photographer had started blackmailing him, threatening to make public their earlier dealings.
“I got scared and kept on working with him,” he said.
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