The State Security Service of Georgia (SSG) today issued its annual report for 2021, outlining key challenges and threats for the country and its countermeasures.
Among the key challenges during the year, the SSG named Russia’s continued policy directed at annexation of occupied Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia and Abkhazia and activities of foreign intelligence services and their “attempts at interfering in Georgia’s social and political affairs.”
The SSG said the activities of Russian troops and special services in the occupied regions “damaged the security of Georgia and the region.”
It noted that over the year, Russia on its Southern Military District’s 4th and 7th bases in Tskhinvali and Abkhazia, respectively, held over 125 exercises over various scales.
As examples of Russia’s further steps toward the annexation of the two regions, the SSG said Russia’s reported territorial claims over Aibga village in Abkhazia, signing of dual citizenship deal with Tskhinvali, talks over a “unified Ossetia,” Abkhaz leader Aslan Bzhania’s remarks on “sharing sovereignty” with Russia and top diplomat Inal Ardzinba’s attempts to restrict the activities of international organizations.
The report added that throughout 2021, Russian occupying forces of the Tskhinvali Region arbitrarily detained 70 Georgian citizens, while forces in Abkhazia detained 11.
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Also in 2021, there were nine instances of “borderization” in Abkhazia and 130 in South Ossetia, the document said.
The report also took note of the ongoing closure of crossing points with Georgia proper by the Tskhinvali authorities, which caused “the full isolation” of the region, as well as by the Abkhaz authorities from March 2020 to July 2021.
It added that ethnic Georgians in both regions also faced discrimination, including the lack of access to education in their native language.
The SSG said 2021 was marked by “drastically increased threats,” including Russia’s military exercises near or inside neighboring countries, “ultimatums about various issues,” as well as the military build-up around Ukraine late in the year.
It also stressed that “recurring armed confrontations between Armenia and Azerbaijan remained as a challenge for the security of Georgia and the region.”
The report noted that the Security Service continued to reveal and take measures against “hostile destructive actions and attempts” by foreign special services. It said that in some cases spies posing as diplomats left the country, while in other instances Georgia “used mechanisms for border control.”
According to the SSG, foreign services were interested in practically every aspect of the political and social-economic affairs of Georgia, including the military and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
Attempts of Destabilization
The SSG reported that foreign actors used Georgian citizens loyal to them to realize their “ideological, religious or economic policies.”
It added that persons interested in damaging the security environment in Georgia aimed to among others damage Georgia’s ties with strategic partners, harm its reputation as a democratic country, and sow unrest in the country.
The report highlighted that throughout 2021, political forces “with possible ties to destructive foreign actors” became more active on various platforms, including on social media, online TV, or traditional broadcasting. In this context, the SSG added that there was also a propaganda campaign against Georgia’s pro-Western course.
Discussing attempts of destabilization, the SSG said during the year it launched a probe into a plot to overthrow the Government, alluding to an alleged plot supposedly linked to the United National Movement party.
The report claimed that disinformation campaigns against the SSG intensified throughout the year. It said “absurd and damaging claims” against the agency included accusations of cooperation with foreign special services, supposedly referring to the controversy over the SSG’s cooperation deal with the Belarusian KGB.
It also claimed that the leak of alleged SSG files that described wiretappings of journalists, clergy, diplomats, politicians, and others became “extremely politicized,” serving the interests of “specific political forces.”
In terms of cyberthreats, the SSG said foreign actors in 2021 took an aim at Georgia’s critical information infrastructure, including by trying to find weak spots in it.
The Security Service noted that no terrorist acts took place in Georgia throughout the year. It also highlighted that in the reporting period there were no recorded instances of financially or in any other form aiding terrorist organizations.