Russia jails two on espionage charges

MOSCOW: Russia has handed long jail terms to a Serbian man and a Russian soldier in two separate cases involving charges of espionage for the United States and Georgia, officials said Friday.

The Serbian man, named as Aleksandar Georgijevic by the Federal Security Service (FSB, successor to the KGB), was convicted of attempting to commit treason.

The FSB statement said that in 1998 Georgijevic gathered information classified as a state secret on Russia's Arena, Blokada, Khrizantema-C and Iskander military hardware and R-500 rockets.

In court, Georgijevic "confessed partial guilt, but confirmed that he knew the information would be handed over to a foreign citizen," the statement said.

Georgijevic received a light sentence because of his confession, because of his age -- he is 63 -- and because he suffers from diabetes and has no previous convictions, a spokeswoman for the Moscow region court said Friday.

The FSB said that he gathered the information for a US citizen named as Farid Rafi who was "working in the interests of the intelligence agency of the US defence ministry."

It was unclear who Rafi is and whether he was questioned in the case. A court spokeswoman said she had no information on Friday.

Georgijevic was detained at a Moscow airport in 2007, the statement said.

RIA Novosti news agency reported that Georgijevic flew in from Belgrade and was detained after he went through passport control, since when he has been in custody.

Vesti state television reported that he was carrying a "package of very serious documents."

Georgijevic and Rafi were earlier questioned by the FSB in an investigation into Viktor Kalyadin, a Russian businessman arrested in 1999 on charges of passing secret documents to a US intelligence agent, Russian media reported.

Georgijevic received an assignment to report on Arena from Kalyadin, RIA Novosti reported, citing an unnamed source. It said that he passed information on the other systems to Rafi "through several other people.

Kalyadin was convicted to 14 years in jail in 2001 and died in 2004.

In another espionage conviction on Friday, an officer in the Russian army was convicted by a military court of spying for Georgia.

The soldier, named as Dzhemal Nakaidze, born 1971, was sentenced to nine years in a strict regime prison colony by the court in Rostov-on-Don, the verdict on the court's website said.

He was convicted of treason, an offence that carries a minimum sentence of 12 years but was given a lighter sentence because he confessed his guilt and cooperated with investigators, the court said.

Nakaidze gathered and passed state secrets to Georgian special services from July to November 2008 in return for a promise of cash and ownership of an apartment in the Georgian beach resort of Batumi, the verdict said.

Nakaidze was recruited by Georgian special services while on holiday in Georgia, the court said. Russia fought a war with Georgia in August 2008.

Vesti's coverage stressed that Nakaidze was paid with "American dollars." It aired hidden camera footage of Nakaidze reading papers in an office.