Monthly Archives: September 2006

06TBILISI2601, GEORGIAN ARRESTS UPDATE — SEPTEMBER 29

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06TBILISI2601 2006-09-29 10:39 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4613
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2601/01 2721039
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 291039Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4202
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 002601 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA, EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/29/2016 
TAGS: PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIAN ARRESTS UPDATE -- SEPTEMBER 29 
 
REF: TBILISI 2590 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(b) & (d). 
 
Summary 
------- 
1. (C) As the Georgian-Russian confrontation over Russian 
military officers detained for spying enters its third day, 
the Georgians have been making their case with the diplomatic 
community and the public, releasing video and other evidence 
of espionage.  OSCE Chair-in-Office de Gucht is planning to 
call Saakashvili at mid-day Tbilisi time on September 29 for 
reaction to the idea of releasing the Russians to OSCE.  Post 
is urging the Georgians to expel the detained Russians and to 
avoid being drawn into any violent incidents with the 
Russians that could cause the situation to deteriorate 
further.  End Summary. 
 
Georgians Brief Dip Corps 
------------------------- 
2. (SBU) Georgian DFMs Chechelashvili and Kutelia briefed the 
diplomatic corps on the situation September 28, handing out a 
fact sheet (faxed to EUR/CARC) on the counterintelligence 
operation that resulted in the detention of four Russian 
officers and eleven Georgians September 27 (reftel).  They 
stressed that the investigation had produced strong evidence 
of criminal activity, and that the detainees were being 
treated properly and in accordance with Georgia's 
international commitments, including bilateral agreements 
with Russia.  They said Georgian DFM Manjgaladze was in 
Moscow and would meet with Russian DFM Karasin on September 
29.  (Note: Press reports September 29 indicated the meeting 
had been canceled.  End Note.)  They said they expected 
investigators to ask a court to issue a decree for two months 
of detention while the investigation continues.  Kutelia said 
there had been previous cases of Russian espionage which the 
Georgians had handled quietly, at Russia's request.  He said 
that in this case the actions went beyond all bounds in their 
threat to Georgian national security, and the Georgians 
believed they had to publicize them in order to serve as a 
deterrent against future actions. 
 
Evidence Shown on TV, Internet 
------------------------------ 
3. (SBU) The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOIA) 
released video evidence September 28, which was shown on 
television and on the MOIA's website.  The video, shot by 
hidden cameras, shows the detained Russians and Georgians 
together in various locations.  In some footage money is 
being exchanged for documents.  The released evidence also 
includes audio tapes and transcripts of incriminating 
comments made in intercepted calls between the Russian 
officers and their Georgian agents.  The Georgian government 
has given this evidence to CNN, BBC, and other international 
media. 
 
Russia Takes Steps in Response 
------------------------------ 
4. (SBU) The Russian Embassy announced September 28 that it 
has stopped issuing visas to Georgian citizens.  The Russians 
have also recalled their Ambassador.  According to the 
Georgian government, this recall was for consultations in 
Moscow, not a permanent removal.  The Russian Embassy is also 
making plans to evacuate dependents of its diplomats from 
Georgia. 
 
OSCE Mission on Possible Role in Release 
---------------------------------------- 
5. (SBU) OSCE Acting Head of Mission Veselin Nikolaev told 
DCM September 29 that the OSCE Task Force at the Belgian MFA 
had informed him that Belgian FM and OSCE Chair-in-Office 
(CIO) de Gucht would call Georgian President Saakashvili 
around mid-day Tbilisi time.  Discussing the possibility that 
the four detained Russians might be released into OSCE 
custody, Nikolaev expressed to DCM some reluctance about the 
OSCE Mission getting involved and asked our view.  DCM 
responded that if this is the agreed solution, it is better 
than allowing the current confrontation to continue. 
Nikolaev said that he and OSCE Head of Mission Roy Reeve 
(curently in London) told de Gucht that they are skeptical 
that the OSCE could offer the kind of assurances the 
Georgians would want that the Russians would stop the 
espionage, and they doubt the OSCE is best-placed to receive 
the Russian officers.  Reeve suggested the Red Cross as an 
alternative to OSCE. 
 
Urging the Georgians to Avoid Possible Flashpoints 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
6. (C) Ambassador urged PM Noghaideli and DFM Chechelashvili 
September 28 to de-escalate the tensions with Russian and 
expel the detained Russians as soon as possible.  DCM 
 
TBILISI 00002601  002 OF 002 
 
 
followed up with Chechelashvili September 29, stressing the 
importance of dealing carefully with potential flashpoints 
with the Russians.  One such flashpoint was Batumi; DCM noted 
that another incident like the one September 28, in which 
Georgian police detained Russians servicemen for carrying 
weapons, could lead to violence.  DCM asked if the 
Georgian-Russian bilateral agreement gives the Russians the 
right to carry weapons.  Chechelashvili said no -- any such 
transport of weapons requires approval in advance.  He agreed 
another such incident would be dangerous, and
 DCM encouraged 
him to talk with the MOIA to minimize the risk.  DCM said 
another potential flashpoint would be unauthorized 
overflights of Georgia by Russian planes; he urged the 
Georgians not to be provoked and to respond to any such 
incidents through normal diplomatic channels.  Chechelashvili 
said he got the message on both potential flashpoints. 
(Note: Chechelashvili seemed unaware of the idea of an OSCE 
role in releasing the Russians; apparently Saakashvili has 
not discussed it with the MFA.  End Note.) 
 
Georgian Public Supports Actions 
-------------------------------- 
7. (SBU) Thus far all indications suggest the Georgian public 
firmly supports the government's actions in this 
counterintelligence operation.  Parliament Speaker Nino 
Burjanadze gave voice to a common sentiment by noting that 
the Russian government has said practically nothing to 
dispute the charges against its officers.  She argued that 
this indicates the Russians either do not care if the 
individuals were involved in spying, or are implicitly 
admitting that they were. 
 
TEFFT

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06TBILISI2590, GEORGIA ARRESTS RUSSIANS FOR SPYING, PLANNING

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06TBILISI2590 2006-09-28 12:26 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO3117
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV
DE RUEHSI #2590 2711226
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 281226Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4188
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

S E C R E T TBILISI 002590 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA, EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/28/2016 
TAGS: PREL PGOV GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA ARRESTS RUSSIANS FOR SPYING, PLANNING 
PROVOCATION 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(b) & (d). 
 
Summary 
------- 
1. (S/NF) The Georgian government announced the arrests of 
four Russians and eleven Georgians on September 27, in 
connection with an alleged espionage ring.  One Russian 
suspect remains inside a diplomatically protected Russian 
military building in Tbilisi.  The Georgians tell us the 
arrests are the result of a careful, long-term 
counterintelligence operation, with substantial filmed 
evidence of transactions and other proof.  They have accused 
one Russian suspect of involvement in a deadly 2005 bombing 
in Gori, and publicly suggested the group was planning 
another "serious provocation."  End Summary. 
 
Georgians Move In 
----------------- 
2. (C) The Georgian government gave the Embassy advance 
warning on the evening of September 27 that they were about 
to arrest individuals they allege are Russian military 
intelligence (GRU) agents involved in espionage in Georgia. 
Shortly thereafter, the press reported that Georgian police 
had surrounded a Russian building in Tbilisi -- the 
headquarters of the Russian Forces in the Transcaucasus 
(GRVZ) -- to apprehend one Russian suspect who had apparently 
taken refuge there.  Post was informed that four Russians and 
twelve Georgians were arrested in connection with the case, 
and the Georgians were attempting to negotiate the surrender 
of one Russian remaining in the building. 
 
3. (U) In a news conference late September 27, Minister of 
Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili publicly confirmed this 
information and provided additional detail.  He announced 
that four Russian GRU operatives had been taken into custody, 
GRU Colonel Aleksandr Sava and Dmitry Kazantsev, both 
arrested in Tbilisi, and Aleksandr Zavgorodny and Aleksandr 
Baranov, arrested in Batumi.  He said eleven Georgian 
citizens had also been arrested for cooperating with the GRU 
to conduct espionage, collecting information on such matters 
as Georgia's armed forces, NATO integration, energy security, 
opposition parties, and Georgian troops in the conflict 
zones.  Merabishvili said the arrests were prompted by 
information that the group was planning a "serious 
provocation."  He said the alleged ringleader of the group -- 
one Anatoly Sinitsin working from Yerevan -- was the 
mastermind of a bombing in Gori on February 1, 2005 that 
killed three Georgian police officers. 
 
4. (SBU) Merabishvili said another GRU officer, Konstantin 
Piguchin, was sought by the Georgians and believed to be 
inside the GRVZ building.  He said Georgian police could not 
enter the building because it was protected by diplomatic 
immunity, but they were demanding that Piguchin be turned 
over.  He said the Georgians were also looking for one 
additional Georgian suspect.  On the night of September 27, 
the Ambassador observed a police cordon around the GRVZ 
building, although the level of tension did not seem to be 
elevated.  Piguchin was believed to still be inside on the 
morning of September 28.  The Russian MFA issued a statement 
claiming that the four arrested Russians were in charge of 
the withdrawal of Russian forces from the Akhalkalaki and 
Batumi bases.  The statement called their arrest groundless 
and "one more outrageous attack" by Georgia. 
 
Product of a Long Investigation 
------------------------------- 
5. (S/NF) The Georgian government has informed us that it has 
film and recordings of the GRU officers meeting the Georgian 
agents and exchanging documents and money.  We understand the 
arrests were triggered by the unexpected decision of the 
senior GRU officer to depart Tbilisi; the Georgians feared 
that if allowed to depart he would not return.  The GOG has 
told us that there were no "big fish" among the Georgians 
arrested; some were retired MOD officials and others were 
employed at the bases.  The Georgians report that none of the 
arrested Russians have diplomatic immunity, and add that they 
have provided the Russian Embassy the required consular 
access. 
 
TEFFT

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06TBILISI2512, NEGOTIATION ROUND ABORTED AS SOUTH OSSETIANS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06TBILISI2512 2006-09-20 06:57 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4251
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DE RUEHSI #2512/01 2630657
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 200657Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4078
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 002512 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/18/2016 
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS GG
SUBJECT: NEGOTIATION ROUND ABORTED AS SOUTH OSSETIANS 
 
REFUSE ENTRY TO GEORGIAN DELEGATION MEMBER 
 
TBILISI 00002512  001.3 OF 002 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(b) & (d). 
 
Summary 
------- 
1. (C) The latest scheduled round of the Joint Control 
Commission (JCC) failed to convene after the South Ossetians 
refused to permit one member of the Georgian delegation, 
peacekeeping battalion commander Paata Bedniashvili, to enter 
Tskhinvali for the talks.  OSCE Ambassador Roy Reeve told us 
 
SIPDIS 
both sides deserve blame for the failure.  The Georgians had 
notified the South Ossetians in advance that Bedniashvili -- 
whom the South Ossetians accuse of war crimes -- would be a 
member of the delegation, but the South Ossetians did not 
react until stopping him at the de facto border on the 
morning of the talks.  Reeve suspects the Georgians may have 
in fact sought the impasse to demonstrate the futility of the 
JCC format.  The sides have agreed to another round soon in 
Vladikavkaz, and Reeve believes preserving a channel for 
dialogue is critical, given the worsening atmosphere between 
the two sides.  Reeve cited three troubling new developments: 
credible reports of the arrival of a number of so-called 
"Cossacks" in South Ossetia, a soon-to-be-released report by 
Joint Peacekeeping Forces (JPKF) commander Kulakhmetov noting 
a big increase in incidents, largely attributable to the 
South Ossetians, and recent Georgian military exercises 
reportedly involving the positioning of artillery aimed in 
the direction of Tskhinvali.  (Note: Embassy DAO is 
attempting to confirm this last report.  End Note.)  End 
Summary. 
 
Stopped En Route 
---------------- 
2. (SBU) As Reeve explained to us September 16, the latest 
round of talks began with an informal meeting September 14 to 
discuss the agenda for the formal meeting.  At first, it 
appeared that even this pre-meeting would be a failure, with 
the Georgians and the other co-chairs -- Russia, South 
Ossetia, and North Ossetia -- engaging in circular arguments 
about the format.  Then the Georgians unexpectedly switched 
gears and agreed to an agenda.  With the other sides at the 
table for the start of the meeting September 15, Georgian 
State Minister for Conflict Resolution Merab Antadze called 
to say that Bedniashvili was being refused entry at the 
"immigration post" that marks the entry into South 
Ossetian-controlled territory.  The South Ossetians claimed 
that they could not guarantee the security of Bedniashvili, 
whom they accuse of crimes for his alleged role in the 2004 
hostilities and a September 2005 mortar firing incident.  The 
Georgians then traveled back to Gori and consulted with the 
others by phone.  Eventually all sides decided the meeting 
would have to be abandoned. 
 
3. (SBU) Reeve said Bedniashvili had taken part in the last 
JCC round in Moscow, which gave the lie to South Ossetian JCC 
co-chair Chochiev's statement during this latest controversy 
that he would not sit at the same table with him.  Reeve said 
the Georgians had included Bedniashvili's name in the 
delegation list given to the South Ossetians a week before 
the meeting, and Antadze had told Reeve that he mentioned it 
to them again in passing September 14.  Reeve said that 
although the South Ossetians' sensitivities about 
Bedniashvili were well-known, Antadze thought the Ossetians 
had never clearly said he would be refused entry, despite 
being warned he would attend.  Reeve said the Russian and 
North Ossetian co-chairs told Chochiev at the aborted meeting 
that refusing entry was a "stupid" step.  That said, however, 
Reeve told us he suspected the Georgians had foreseen this 
turn of events -- and that was likely why they agreed to an 
agenda.  He thought they wanted to use the failure of the 
talks to highlight the ineffectiveness of the JCC format. 
 
4. (SBU) The remaining co-chairs and Reeve agreed to hold 
another round September 27-28 in Vladikavkaz.  Antadze also 
agreed to a meeting in Vladikavkaz "soon," although the date 
was not definitively agreed before Antadze departed for the 
UNGA in New York.  (Note: The Georgians subsequently told us 
that due to scheduling conflicts they were likely to propose 
October 12-13 for the meeting.  End Note.)  Russian co-chair 
Popov indicated that the border crossing at Kemo Lars could 
be temporarily opened for the delegations.  (Note: This 
suggests there is no real reason for keeping the crossing 
closed.  End Note.)  Popov there should be "no problem" with 
the membership of the delegations, clearly suggesting that 
Bedniashvili could attend, as he had in Moscow. 
 
Worrying Signs 
-------------- 
5. (C) Reeve stressed the importance of keeping a channel of 
communication open, arguing that in the current climate a 
perception that the JCC process had permanently broken down 
could have dangerous consequences.  He said Joint 
Peacekeeping Forces (JPKF) commander Kulakhmetov had prepared 
 
TBILISI 00002512  002.3 OF 002 
 
 
a report -- which was suppose
d to have been delivered at the 
aborted JCC meeting -- identifying 367 violations of existing 
agreements in the conflict in July and August, a large 
increase over earlier months.  The bulk of the violations, 
Reeve added, were by the South Ossetians.  Even more 
ominously, Reeve said, OSCE's reliable contacts in Tskhinvali 
were reporting that there were a number of so-called 
"Cossacks" on the ground in South Ossetia.  Reeve said there 
was a strong sense that South Ossetian defense and militia 
structures "can't wait" for the expected onslaught from 
Georgia, and were talking about how easy they believe it 
would be for small groups to blow up Georgian gas, oil, and 
electricity lines that run near South Ossetia.  As for the 
Georgians, Reeve said OSCE had seen tracks and heard reports 
indicating that on two occasions in the previous week, the 
Georgian military had conducted nighttime exercises involving 
the movement of artillery to face Tskhinvali.  He said it was 
possible these were regular training exercises, but it was 
worrying at the very least because word of such maneuvers 
could not be kept from Tskhinvali for long.  (Note: Embassy 
DAO is currently working on sending an observer to the 
reported area -- which is outside the zone of conflict but 
close to Tskhinvali -- to try to confirm these reports of 
Georgian exercises.  End Note.)  Add in the deadly September 
8 shootout between Georgian and South Ossetian forces, Reeve 
said, and there is ample reason to be worried where the 
conflict is headed. 
TEFFT

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