Russian spy service accuses US of plotting 'regime change' in Georgia

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech near the headquarters of Russian Foreign Intelligence Service in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia's foreign spy agency accused the United States on Tuesday of plotting "regime change" in Georgia after the South Caucasus country holds a parliamentary election on Oct. 26, a claim Washington called "completely false."

Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) provided no evidence for its assertion, but an SVR statement containing the allegation was a sign of warming relations between Moscow and its traditionally pro-Western neighbour.

"Washington is determined to achieve regime change in Georgia following the results of the upcoming parliamentary elections," the SVR said in the statement.

"The Biden administration has already developed a large-scale information campaign to discredit the ruling Georgian Dream party."

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters it was not the first time Russia has made what he called an "absurd" allegation about U.S. involvement in Georgia, calling the claim "completely false."

"I would just point out the irony of the country, Russia, that is illegally occupying 20% of Georgia as we speak making those absurd allegations about another country," said Miller, referring to the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions occupied by Russia in a 2008 war.

Georgia's governing Georgian Dream party did not comment, but officials have repeatedly accused Western countries of backing Georgian opposition groups to try to drag the country into a confrontation with Russia.

After gaining independence from Moscow in 1991, Georgia had been one of the most pro-Western of the Soviet Union's successor states until a sharp downturn in relations with Western countries this year.

Georgia approved a law on "foreign agents" in June despite street protests and Western condemnation, and Tbilisi has drawn closer to Moscow, refusing to impose sanctions on Russia over its war in Ukraine.

Russian officials have repeatedly praised what they have called Georgia's "moderate" position on the conflict in Ukraine. Public opinion in Georgia remains strongly pro-Kyiv.

(Reporting by Reuters in Moscow, Felix Light in Tbilisi and Simon Lewis in Washington, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Sandra Maler)