Daily Archives: September 29, 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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