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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI303 2007-02-14 13:37 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #0303/01 0451337
O 141337Z FEB 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000303 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/09/2017 
REF: A. (A) TBILISI 0219 
     B. (B) TBILISI 0194 
     C. (C) TBILISI 0078 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(b)&(d). 
1. (C) OSCE officials shared with us several interesting bits 
of news and analysis about South Ossetia during a recent 
visit to Tskhinvali.  Head of Mission (HOM) Roy Reeve said 
Russian officials had told him in Moscow that the South 
Ossetian decision to declare Georgian Deputy State Minister 
for Conflict Resolution Ruslan Abashidze "persona non grata" 
-- in response to Abashidze's visit to the headquarters of 
the pro-Georgian "alternative government" -- was "foolish." 
Reeve was confident that the South Ossetians, under pressure 
from the Russians, would soon lift the ban on Abashidze. 
OSCE officials suggested that Sanakoyev was making some 
in-roads in the separatist-controlled parts of South Ossetia, 
having gained popularity at the expense of the Tskhinvali 
authorities in a recent dispute over mandarin orange 
shipments.  Reeve also suggested that the Joint Peacekeeping 
Force (JPKF) commander was making more of an effort to be 
even-handed, largely thanks to the helpful presence of the 
new Georgian peacekeeping battalion commander.  End Summary. 
The "De Factos" vs. "The Alternatives" 
2. (C) Accompanying a USAID visit to Tskhinvali February 8 
for meetings with OSCE, de facto authorities, and others 
(assistance-related information from the visit will be 
reported septel), Poloff learned from Reeve that Russia was 
pressing the South Ossetians to lift the travel ban on 
Abashidze.  Reeve said Russian officials had called the ban 
"foolish" (Duratskii) in meetings during Reeve's visit to 
Moscow February 3-4.  Reeve said the South Ossetians were 
currently looking for a face-saving way to lift the ban, 
which he noted had been imposed in a "fit of pique" because 
Abashidze had visited "alternative government" leader 
Sanakoyev in Kurta following a meeting with de facto 
officials in Tskhinvali (ref B).  Reeve said that as soon as 
Abashidze was free to travel, the next meeting of the 
Steering Committee for the donors' economic rehabilitation 
projects would be held in Tskhinvali. 
3. (C) OSCE's Ryan Grist, who as coordinator of the economic 
rehabilitation project spends much of his time in Tskhinvali, 
said it was his sense that South Ossetian society was divided 
on Sanakoyev, with some people emphasizing that he had fought 
bravely in the war against the Georgians, while others 
claimed he had taken his recent pro-Georgian stance because 
of gambling debts.  Vakhtang Dzhigkaev, an Ossetian expert 
with the OSCE's USAID-funded Economic Development Center, 
said that while he had initially thought Ossetians would 
never support a pro-Georgian alternative power structure, 
people's attitudes were now changing because of the de facto 
authorities' mistakes. 
4. (C) Most notable, Dzhigkaev said, was the dispute over the 
truckloads of mandarin oranges blocked from entering Russia 
(ref C).  As Dzhigkaev explained, the incident began late 
last year when some truckers successfully transported 
mandarins, falsely labeled as being from Abkhazia but in 
reality from Ajara in government-controlled Georgia, into 
Russia via South Ossetia, thereby evading the Russian ban on 
Georgian agricultural goods.  Learning of this, many more 
South Ossetian truckers bought large quantities of mandarins, 
and paid export "fees" to South Ossetian authorities, only to 
be stopped at the Russian checkpoint when Russia began 
enforcing the ban more strictly in November.  Some truckers, 
who had gone heavily into debt to buy the oranges, remained 
with their trucks near the Roki tunnel in protest, but they 
received no sympathy from de facto president Kokoity, who 
criticized them even though his subordinates had taken money 
from them.  It was in this atmosphere that Sanakoyev offered 
to buy all the mandarins at approximately half value.  Six 
truckers accepted the offer, and all were promptly jailed by 
the authorities.  (Comment: Everyone assumes Sanakoyev got 
the funds to make this offer from either the Georgian 
government or wealthy individuals allied with it.  End 
Comment.)  Dzhigkaev said Sanakoyev had taken the oranges he 
bought to a processing plant in Georgia. 
5. (C) Reeve said that although OSCE was avoiding contact 
with Sanakoyev's administration, he understood that uniformed 
individuals had been seen in Georgian-controlled areas 
wearing new badges -- apparently police forces of the 
"alternative government."  Reeve added that Georgia had 
always had a free hand in managing these areas. 
TBILISI 00000303  002 OF 002 
A Lull in Shootings 
6. (C) OSCE military monitors expressed relief that there had 
not been a recurrence since February 3 of the nightly &#x0
00A;shootings that had recently erupted near Tskhinvali (ref A). 
Reeve and the observers noted that for the first time they 
had established which side had started one of the shootings: 
two JPKF peacekeepers (one Georgian, one Russian) confirmed 
that the South Ossetians had started an exchange of fire near 
Nikozi.  Reeve suggested the revelation of this information 
was part of a pattern of increasing even-handedness by the 
JPKF, whose Russian leadership has long been criticized as 
pro-Ossetian.  Reeve indicated that Georgian and 
international complaints about the JPKF's ineffectiveness may 
be having some effect on the commander, General Kulakhmetov. 
Even more important, he said, was having the new Georgian 
peacekeeping battalion commander on the ground, where he 
could exert some influence on the JPKF.  The previous 
Georgian commander, who Reeve described as a close associate 
of former Defense Minister Okruashvili, had been barred from 
the area because the South Ossetians accused him of "war 
crimes" in a previous post in 2004. 
The Georgian Radar 
7. (C) OSCE military observers briefed the group on 
violations in the zone of conflict, noting that the majority 
occurred on the South Ossetian side.  They gave some 
background on one of the more notable cases involving 
Georgia, explaining that the radar installation near Gori is 
not a violation in itself -- because it is not a weapon -- 
but the 5 or 6 armed individuals guarding it constitute a 
8. (C) The Russians' negative reaction to the South Ossetian 
PNGing of Abashidze suggests their support for Kokoity may 
not be unflinching.  We are beginning to suspect there may be 
some significance in Russia's silence regarding Sanakoyev, 
which contrasts sharply with Kokoity's strident reaction to 
him.  Time will tell, but for the moment it appears Kokoity's 
position is weakening at home -- and perhaps in Moscow as 
well.  End Comment. 


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