Russia seeks arrest of Georgian politician Givi Targamadze
MOSCOW — Russian authorities issued an arrest warrant for a Georgian politician, Givi Targamadze, on Thursday, charging that he had incited riots in Russia, in particular by helping to organize an anti-government march in May that culminated in a confrontation between protesters and the riot police.
Russian authorities asserted that the large anti-government protests were being orchestrated by foreign powers, but Targamadze, a longtime lieutenant of President Mikhail Saakashvili, is the first non-Russian to face criminal charges.
Russian television has broadcast what it says is surveillance video showing Targamadze meeting with a leftist leader, Sergei Udaltsov, and two of his deputies, at one point offering to deliver large sums of money on behalf of a Russian banker now living in exile.
At the time, Targamadze said that no such meeting had taken place and that the footage had been manufactured by the Prosecutorial Investigative Committee and the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor to the KGB.
“It is clear that this was all prepared in the investigative committee and the FSB headquarters,” he told Dozhd, an Internet news site. “It is sold to the media and then very quickly, at lightning speed, the Investigative Committee reacts.”
A spokeswoman for Georgia’s general prosecutor told Interfax on Thursday that Georgia cannot extradite Targamadze to Russia because it would violate his rights under the country’s constitution, but that prosecutors could open a criminal case based on Russia’s request.
Russian analysts noted that the Georgian government did not say Targamadze’s status as a lawmaker gave him immunity from prosecution. Saakashvili’s party lost a parliamentary election in October to an opposition coalition intent on repairing Tbilisi’s icy relations with Moscow.
Targamadze could not be reached for comment Thursday. A spokesman for the United National Movement, the party he belongs to, said he was traveling outside Georgia. Meanwhile, the police in Moscow said they were working to determine who else in Russia may have had contact with Targamadze.
Foreign interference in Russian politics was a central theme Thursday when President Vladimir V. Putin met with top officials at the Federal Security Service, congratulating them on “courageous acts to neutralize internal and external enemies.” Putin reported that 200 foreign intelligence officers had been identified in 2002 and spoke with satisfaction about new measures restricting foreign financing for nonprofit organizations.