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Alleged Georgian Army Defector Shown On Russian TV

MOSCOW -- The interrogation of a Georgian Army officer who reportedly defected to Russia was shown on Russian television on June 18, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Alik Bjania told his questioners that he is a lieutenant in the Georgian Army and said he crossed from Georgia proper into the breakaway republic of Abkhazia in May and asked for political asylum in Russia.

He added that he is from the Georgian town of Ochamchira and has a brother. He claimed that he never took part in any military operations and used to serve in coastal patrol in the port city of Poti.

A Georgian Defense Ministry official said that a man named Alik Bjania had served in Georgia's coastal patrol as a reserve officer but he did not confirm that he is the same man in Abkhazia.

Later, Georgian Minister for Reintegration Temur Iakobashvili confirmed to RFE/RL that Alik Bjania was once an officer in the coastal patrol, but he was dismissed from the army in May.

According to Iakobashvili, the story on Bjania's defection to Russia is "a dull and talentless operation implemented by Russia's secret services, which can be defined as a cheap provocation."

Tbilisi-based political observer Aleksandr Randeli says that the Bjania story looks like a response to Russian Army Sergeant Aleksandr Glukhov's defection to Georgia earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Bjania has denounced Georgian officials' statement of his having been dismissed from the army. He showed journalists his military certificate, valid until December 2011.

He said he has never been involved in politics and decided to leave Georgia for Russia because to his unwillingness to fight against the Russian Army.