Georgian State Security Service seizes explosives allegedly in transit from Ukraine to Russia

SSS said seven Georgian citizens, three Ukrainian nationals and two Armenian citizens were involved in the smuggling and transportation of the devices within Georgia. Photo: SSS press office, 05 Feb 2024 - 14:01, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Georgian State Security Service on Monday said it had seized several units of special explosive devices and a “significant quantity” of explosive material allegedly originating from the Ukrainian city of Odesa and intended for transportation to Russia. 

The agency said professionals of its Counter-Terrorism Centre had uncovered two electric car batteries, repurposed as containers during a search of a vehicle, with the batteries containing six “special explosive devices” concealed within them.

A defusal team safely removed the devices and sent them for examination, the body said, adding the investigators also placed mock-ups in the containers to maintain the integrity of the undercover investigative activities, with the movement of the package “closely monitored” by professionals of the Centre. 

It also said it was working to identify purchasers and other potential accomplices involved in the transportation of the material and determine the route and intended targets of the explosive devices.

The explosive devices contained the C-4 military-grade plastic explosive with a total weight of 14 kilograms, capable of being activated by electric detonators and special timers, the Service said. Additionally, the containers held six detonators and six special keys, with each explosive device housed in a separate box. The electronic timers were pre-programmed for activation, it added. 

Analysis indicated that all six devices were “expertly crafted and capable of inflicting significant damage over a wide radius, posing grave threat to crowded areas and infrastructure”, the agency said. 

Citing witness testimonies and recovered audio files, the SSS claimed the devices and substances had originated from the Ukrainian city of Odesa before traversing Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey before arriving in Georgia on January 19. 

Initially intended for transportation to Russia, the agency claimed the plans were later altered, resulting in one container being intercepted at the Georgian-Russian border, while the other was left in Tbilisi.

The Service said seven Georgian citizens, three Ukrainian nationals and two Armenian citizens were involved in the smuggling and transportation of the devices within Georgia. 

It also named Andrey Sharashidze, a Ukrainian citizen of Georgian origin and former candidate for the Deputy of the Kyiv district of Odesa from the Servant of the People party, as an alleged organiser of the scheme, with others potentially unaware of the devices concealed within the car batteries.

The body also said its inquiry was looking to determine whether the devices left in Tbilisi were intended for use within Georgia or transportation to Russia.

[T]he details of the case and the factual situation raise suspicions that the involvement of Georgian citizens and the use of Georgian territory may have been orchestrated to shift blame for potential terrorist acts, whether within Georgia or abroad, onto Georgia itself”, the agency alleged. 

The SSS noted it was investigating the case with articles of illegal purchase and storage of explosive substances and devices, which carry a penalty of three to six years of imprisonment, but noted the charges for preparation of terrorist acts could be added, elevating the penalty to 10 to 15 years in prison.