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July 12, 2008
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“Georgia Is Able to Shoot Down Violators”
// Tbilisi is getting prepared for war with Russia
Georgia and Russia unfold each other’s aggressive plans
Yesterday Georgia threatened to shoot down Russia’s military aircraft in case they appear in its airspace. At the same time Tbilisi urged summoning a UNSC session immediately to thrash out “the Russian aggression.” Georgia’s mass media has already published the Russian Interior Ministry’s plans to storm the Kodori Gorge, which is now under Georgia’s control. According to the information of Kommersant, in its turn, Russia is ready to make public information about Georgian military’s preparation to invade South Ossetia.
The Russian fighters’ flights over Georgia and Moscow’s further acknowledgement of this fact aroused an unprecedented reaction of Tbilisi. Georgia’s MPs are the ones to have offered the harshest response to Moscow. “If Russian military jets once again violate Georgia’s airspace, they’ll collect their remnants only,” Nika Rurua, Deputy Head of the Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee, threatened yesterday.

This initiative was considered during a session of the Parliament’s Bureau and endorsed by the opposition, too. MP Georgy Tortladze, one of the participants of the discussion, told Kommersant that he called on his colleagues to pass a resolution addressing the government and asking it to shoot down Russia’s fighters in future. “If foreign military aircraft violated the Russian airspace, what would Russia do? Georgia also has an ability to shoot down such violators. But for some reason it hasn’t been done. We must take relevant steps against aggressors.”

For all that, the lawmakers decided to forbear from such recommendations to the leaders of the country. Instead, they appealed to the world community so that it gave a strict assessment of Moscow’s activities. “It’s the first time that Russia acknowledged a fact of violating Georgia’s airspace, thus it acknowledged its military aggression,” stressed Speaker of the Parliament David Bakradze, “It’s an impunity syndrome and a challenge to Georgia and the international community as a whole. We must do our best to make Russia learn the price of its conduct so that it would never have such wishes.” Yesterday the Georgian Foreign Office issued a press-release in a similar tone, “The Russian Federation’s cynical annexation of the integral parts of the Georgian territory has turned into an undisguised and extremely dangerous military aggression. The Russian side carried out this illegal, irresponsible and destructive act in an absolutely open and undisguised manner.”

Apart from the desire to enlist international support in its confronting Russia, Georgia’s channeling the discussion in pure diplomacy can be explained by the fact that Tbilisi has no ability to challenge Russia’s aircraft. Georgian military expert Murman Kuprashvili told Kommersant, “The army can’t use surface to air missiles because the air traffic over Georgia is one of the heaviest in the region.” As to its own aircraft, the Georgian Air Force has only Sukhoi Su-25 bombers, which cannot serve as interceptors. Earlier President Mikhail Saakashvili promised to purchase modern fighters, but negotiations about the issue haven’t been accomplished yet. According to the expert, Georgia’s aircraft defense can just record movements in its airspace with radars, which were bought in Ukraine. Only Tbilisi is protected with missiles able to shoot down violators.

A possible war with Russia has aroused much speculation in the Georgian society. The mass media has published information about Russia’s plans to seize the Kodori Gorge, which has been under Georgia’s control since 2006. Yesterday Georgia Online (www.apsny.ge) reported preparation for an assault, specifying that the details of the operation were worked out by Russian high-ranking military officials, with Abkhazia’s President Sergey Bagapsh, who has recently visited Moscow, being involved in it, too. Referring to sources in the Abkhaz government, the Internet site argues that in the near future an assault of Georgia’s special forces on the peace-keepers’ outpost will be staged. Then it’ll be claimed that those who launched the assault have gone in the Kodori direction, and Russia’s troops, including the Pskov landing division #76, which will be deliberately deployed in Abkhazia, will be sent there in no time. With that, according to the web-site, the operation will be presented as a response to Georgia’s act of aggression.

In support of this version, Georgia points to Moscow’s aspiration to seek a withdrawal of Georgia’s troops from the Kodori Gorge, and quotes yesterday’s press-release of the Russian Foreign Ministry about a meeting of Foreign Office Chief Sergey Lavrov with Abkhazia’s leader Sergey Bagapsh. It reads, “Moscow and Sukhumi are convinced that a way out of the situation can be found only through the cessation of provocations and the signing, without delay, of documents on the nonuse of force in both conflicts, which in the case of Abkhazia must be accompanied by a complete withdrawal of Georgian troops from the Upper Kodori Valley.”

To convince the world community of Russia’s aggressive plans, Georgia urged summoning a special UNSC session. Moscow, however, has shown no sign of panic, and now it’s preparing a counter-attack. The sources of Kommersant with the Russian Foreign Office reported that it’ll be done during the UNSC session. “We will go into detail and provide facts revealing how Georgians plotted a military invasion of South Ossetia to release their officers detained this week. The Georgian military machine has been launched, that’s why our fighters were used,” an official with the Russian MFA told Kommersant. According to him, as it became known that the Georgian military had been set free, it was highly problematic to cancel the order. When answering a question of Kommersant whether Moscow feared that the fighters could be shot down, the diplomat put it bluntly, “They have nothing to do it with.”

Georgy Dvali, Tbilisi; Vladimir Solovyov

All the Article in Russian as of July 12, 2008

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