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Mr. Abdaladze, who works with the Georgian Foreign Ministry and has freelanced for the AP, denies the espionage charge.

The Georgian Interior Ministry, however, played a recording of what it says is a phone conversation between Mr. Abdaladze and the EPA photographer, in which Mr. Kurtsikidze asks him to provide the details of his bank account.

Mr. Seren said the agency owed Mr. Abdaladze money and wanted to pay him for the pictures he had taken for them.

“Can you image a spy network working like this?” he said.

President Mikhail Saakashvili said in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station Friday that he learned about the spy ring about 30 minutes before the arrests.

“This is not paranoia but it’s about the rule of law and equality of everyone,” he said of the operation to arrest the journalists. “As for the personal photographer, I got very upset about it, and I am still.”

Mr. Seren said EPA would ask its shareholders, major European news agencies and European institutions to help prove the photographers’ innocence.

Neither the Russian Defense Ministry nor its intelligence unit was available for comment.

Several people have been convicted recently by Georgian courts on charges of spying for Russia. Late Wednesday, a court in the Black Sea port of Batumi convicted a Russian citizen and eight Georgians of espionage and gave them prison sentences ranging from 11 to 14 years.

The spy flaps have aggravated already-tense relations between the two former Soviet republics. Russia has dismissed the spy arrests in Georgia as a fabrication.

The three Georgian photographers are expected to face trial Sept. 1.