In the non-smouldering aftermath of Georgia's revolution, a fresh burst of Caucasus weirdness was only to be expected. Fortunately it has so far kept within limits - just a couple of mystery aeroplanes, phone calls to BP-Amoco and sabre-rattling local bosses, nothing too serious. But that was until this truly odd story emerged...
"A £2bn pipeline to carry Caspian oil to Europe through Georgia risks being damaged by Chechen mercenaries or ecological saboteurs sponsored by Russian intelligence, a senior Georgian security official and sources in Moscow claim.
The GRU, the sophisticated elite of Russia's military intelligence corps, has allegedly allocated money towards hiring or training eco-warriors and mercenaries to sabotage the 1,100-mile project, which is run by a consortium headed by BP and is expected to be operational by 2005.
"We are aware of this threat," a Georgian cabinet member said. "The pipeline is a key strategic interest to Georgia and we are checking the situation very carefully."
According to information obtained from Moscow security sources during two months of inquiries by the Guardian, the GRU has allocated part of its budget towards the sabotage operation. The plan is not yet believed to be active, although the GRU has allegedly begun training a cell of ecologists"
Wot? Very sensibly, the reporter (Nick Paton-Walsh) mentions the possibility that this might be a planted story intended to worry BP or possibly to keep the Georgians intimidated. Indeed, but why stop there? Did they leak the story to the Georgians? To give it more credence perhaps? Or did the Georgians come up with it to discredit the Russians and attract western support? Or perhaps the Russians leaked it in the hope the Georgians would over-react....wibble. I can well imagine that you can barely chuck a rock in Tbilisi at the moment without hitting a spook, but surely this of ecological terrorists trained by the GRU is all James Bond and bollocks?
I wonder how long we'll have to wait for the first unfortunate conservationist to end up bleeding on a concrete police floor because of this...