06TBILISI2626, GEORGIA RELEASES RUSSIAN OFFICERS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06TBILISI2626 2006-10-02 14:25 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO6714
OO RUEHAST
DE RUEHSI #2626 2751425
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 021425Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4234
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS TBILISI 002626 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA RELEASES RUSSIAN OFFICERS 
 
REF: TBILISI 2601 
 
Summary 
------- 
1. Georgia released four Russian officers detained for spying 
to OSCE Chair-in-Office Karel de Gucht on October 2 in a 
televised handover ceremony.  The Georgians expect further 
Russian retaliation for the incident, such as the reported 
Russian decision to cut off air travel, mail service, and 
money transfers between the two countries.  The separatist 
leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia simultaneously 
announced they were pulling out of talks with Georgia, citing 
alleged violations of the 1994 Moscow Agreement.  End 
Summary. 
 
Releasing the GRU Four 
---------------------- 
2. Georgian officials released the four Russian officers, 
detained since September 27 (reftel), to OSCE in a nationally 
televised ceremony outside the Georgian Prosecutor General's 
Office on October 2.  De Gucht and Georgian FM Bezhuashvili 
witnessed the handover.  Each of the four officers was 
handcuffed, carrying a plastic bag and escorted by two 
uniformed police officers.  The officers entered a van to 
take them to the airport, where a Russian plane was waiting 
to take them to Russia. 
 
3. Prior to the handover, de Gucht and Georgian President 
Saakashvili had met and conducted a joint press conference. 
Speaking in English, Saakashvili stressed that Georgia wants 
Russia to treat it as an independent state.  He said he 
believes the relationship will improve in the future.  He 
said the current pressure from Russia is caused by Georgia's 
success in its reforms and in orienting itself toward 
becoming a member of the "Euro-Atlantic family of democratic 
nations."  Saakashvili added that the criminal case against 
the Russians was well-founded.  He said the decision to 
release them was a gesture to the Western allies, not a 
capitulation to Russian threats.  He said it underlined the 
important role OSCE can play.  In his remarks, de Gucht 
expressed support for Georgia's territorial integrity and for 
continuation of the dialogue in the separatist conflicts.  He 
called on Russia to behave toward Georgia in a neighborly 
manner. 
 
Georgians Take Note of Russian Retaliatory Steps 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
4. Georgian press gave extensive attention October 2 to 
reports that Russia had suspended air, sea, rail, and land 
traffic with Georgia.  Ministry of Transport officials said 
they expect October 3 flights to and from Russia to be 
canceled, but Tbilisi Airport information told us they are 
not sure what would happen.  Georgian press stressed that the 
sanctions would apparently prevent money transfers and mail 
delivery. 
 
Separatists Announce Breakoff of Talks 
-------------------------------------- 
5. Practically at the same time the Russians were being 
released in Tbilisi, the press reported that the de facto 
authorities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were withdrawing 
from talks with Georgia.  The Abkhaz explained their decision 
by claiming the Georgians were violating the 1994 Moscow 
cease-fire agreement by keeping troops in the Upper Kodori 
Gorge.  South Ossetian "president" Kokoity then personally 
announced that his region would join the Abkhaz decision. 
 
Georgian Opposition Supports Government Actions 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
6. Throughout this controversy with Russia, the Georgian 
opposition has presented a unified front -- with the lone 
exception of Labor Party leader Shalva Natalashvili -- in 
supporting the government's decision to detain the Russian 
officers for spying. 
 
TEFFT

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