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Oct. 02, 2006
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The West at the Gates
// Russia and the U.S. are fighting over Georgia
Russian President Vladimir Putin has openly accused the West of throwing its weight behind Georgia, saying Georgian authorities act “with support of foreign sponsors.” Thus he has made clear that Moscow in fact fights Washington rather than Tbilisi in the current Russian-Georgian conflict. Russia and the United States have entered an open struggle over Georgia and do not even try to hide it.
Russia Makes a Threat

Vladimir Putin said yesterday at a session with permanent members of the Russian Security Council in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence who actually is behind the spy scandal in Georgia and arrests of Russian officers. “There are forces whose job is to create more new crises, thinking that it will distract attention from old problems,” the president said. “It may have this effect in the short term outlook. But it will hardly help settle old deep-rooted international crises.”

Putin complained that despite Russia’s adherence to the troops pull-out from Georgia, “our servicemen have been arrested and thrown to prison” there. He called actions of Georgian authorities “state terrorism and hostage taking. The president virtually drew a comparison with the crisis in Lebanon in which Israel launched a strike on the neighboring state in response to the capture of its soldiers by Hezbollah. “They try to pinch and provoke Russia as much as they can, which must be obvious for everyone. In all likelihood, those who do it think that the anti-Russian course of Georgia serves interests of the Georgian people,” Vladimir Putin said.

Trying to point to those who are encouraging the insolent behavior of Georgian authorities, Putin explained clearly whose protection Tbilisi hopes to secure in the conflict with Russia. “These people think that under the protection of foreign sponsors they may be safe and sound,” the president said, almost openly accusing the West of inciting Georgia to confront Russia. “Is it really so? I would like to listen to opinions of representative of civil services and military experts.”

The press did not get to listen to the answer of the Siloviks as the session of the Security Council was to finish behind close doors. Meanwhile, all Russian military bases in Georgia have been transferred to martial law and alertness state, following the order of Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov. A well-informed source of Kommersant at the ministry did not rule out the most severe steps towards Georgia: “All diplomatic steps used in this kind of tensions have been exhausted. The break-off of diplomatic relations and a military operation could be the next step. All options are under consideration now.”

Georgia Stands Firm

Russia’s military mood leaves Georgia unfazed, though. Tbilisi is still rejoicing that their intelligence forces managed to catch Moscow red-handed. What is more, Georgia’s Interior Ministry reported last weekend that it has information that the detained Russian officers not only spied but were also engaged in sabotage and terrorist activities. They are suspected of organizing a terrorist attack in the city of Gori in 2005 and participating in bombing the Liakhvi and Kartli-2 power lines as well as blowing up the oil pipeline in Khashuri and the groundwork of the railroad in Kaspi in 2004.

Georgian Defense Minister Irakliy Okruashvili, the country’s chief hawk, said that the arrest of Russian officers helped not only to disarm dangerous spies but also to achieve an important foreign political goal.

“First, we have broken up a spy network,” Okruashvili said in an interview with the Imedi TV channel. “But, more importantly, the world has finally seen that conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are no ethnic clashes. These are conflicts between Georgia and Russia. Therefore, when we say that Russian peacekeepers should leave the conflict zones we mean that Russian leave talks on settling the conflict. We don’t need this sort of mediator.”

Georgia’s Foreign Ministry also picked up the aggressive tone of the Defense Ministry, releasing an irate declaration on the participation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s presidents Sergey Bagapsh and Eduard Kokoity in the Kuban-2006 economic forum in Sochi. “We are all the more concerned and shocked as the event is organized by official agencies of Russia – Russian Foreign Ministry, Economic Development and Trade Ministry and Trade and Industry Chamber,” the statement reads. The Georgian Foreign Ministry called these actions of Russia “a violent interference in domestic affairs of Georgia and another example of the policy of creeping annexation.” “Russia’s emphatic support for separatism shows that the Russian Federation is no impartial and unbiased mediator in the settlement of conflicts on the territory of Georgia. It shows one more time that the current format of negotiations and peace keeprng forces must be altered,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry concluded.

Nino Burdzhanadze, speaker of the Georgian Parliament, also answered to Moscow. She said the uproar caused by the arrest of Russian officers was a wrong reaction. “Russia should have first found out what grounds for the accusations we had, and then they might as well mention a political bias and threaten Georgia with nuclear war, or whatever,” the speaker said.

Foreign Countries Rush to Help

The confidence of Georgian officials in the confrontation with Russia is evidently due to the support it gets from the West at any moment of the exacerbation of tensions. When Moscow submitted a draft of a strict resolution condemning “provocations of Georgia” at an extraordinary session of the UN Security Council in New York last Friday, the United States blocked the vote. “We are not satisfied with the document as it is,” US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton explained Washington’s stance.

The resolution was re-worded following a request of the American delegation. Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian mission at the UN, told the press that “amendments of the American party have changed the nature of the statement and made it impossible to be adopted.” Yet, Moscow does not lose spirit and hopes to get back to the discussion of the resolution in a few weeks. “We will try to have this resolution adopted,” Andrey Krivtsov, deputy head of the press department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said.

In the meantime, Washington made another emphatic step to demonstrate its approval of Tbilisi’s actions last weekend. A draft bill to back Georgia’s accession to the NATO was submitted to the U.S. Senate on Saturday. Among the bill’s movers are a group led by Bill Frist, leader of the Republican majority at the Senate. Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Senate Richard Lugar and quite influential Senator John McKane have also thrown their support behind Georgia. The draft backs the further enlargement of the NATO, including such countries as Georgia, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia. The 2006 Act on Freedom Consolidation at the NATO provides for the allocation of $19.8 million to assist the aforementioned countries in the field of security. The greatest part of the money, $10 million, is to be earmarke for Georgia. “I am looking forward to athe day when Georgia, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia will become America’s allies at the NATO and when the most successful alliance in the history will become even stronger,” Bill Frist said, commenting his initiative.

Russian Officers Called Spies

The Georgian Interior Ministry has put video on its official web-site, www.police.ge, showing testimony of Georgian nationals who admitted to cooperating with the detained Russian officers. The four men admitted to have cooperated with officers of Russia’s Chief Investigations Department in their espionage activities.

Artashes Baloyan said that he “collaborated with an officer of the Russian intelligence service, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Saava and made commissions for him.”

Goderdzi Dzuliashvili, another Georgian accused of parricide, said that he also “collaborated with the military intelligence of the Russian Federation.” “I was commissioned to obtain information on the disposition and movement of units of the Georgian Defense Ministry, including a tank unit in Gori, a Navy element in Poti and the Sanakskaya brigade,” Dzuliashvili said during the interrogation. Pyotr Ashrapyan also admitted to ties with Russian intelligence services: “I cooperated with officers of the Chief Investigation Department of Russia who worked under cover at the 12th Russian military base in Batumi.”

Another Georgian arrested for espionage, Viktor Orekhov has given a detailed report about the people he collaborated with. “In 1997-1998, I did military service at the Grouping of Russian Forces in Transcaucasia as an officer of reconnaissance equipment. I carried on working them under the name of Filbert. I was commissioned to help Russian intelligence officers in their reconnaissance activities after the pull-out of Russian forces,” Orekhov said. “In 1999, I was in contact with the head of the Russian military intelligence abroad Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Shulga. In 2002, I assisted Colonel Alexey Kutygin. In 2004 I was in contact with Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Terekhov. I have been in touch with Colonel Dmitry Kazantsev up to the latest moment.” Viktor Orekhov said that he “was given commissions to search for information on political and economic situation in Georgia, large business projects and state of affairs in the country’s armed forces.” In addition, “his sphere of interests embraced the situation on the Georgian-Turkish border, including the passport and visa regime.”

Vladimir Solovyev

All the Article in Russian as of Oct. 02, 2006

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