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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI1958 2007-08-07 12:18 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #1958/01 2191218
O 071218Z AUG 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001958 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/07/2017 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Mark X. Perry for reasons 1.4(b&d). 
1. (C) Georgian officials report that SU-type airplanes from 
Russia crossed into Georgian airspace on the evening of 
August 6, and that one of the planes dropped a 
"precision-guided Russian missile" -- estimated to weigh 
700-1,000 kilograms -- that impacted near the Georgian 
village Tsitelubani, close to the city of Gori.  The bomb did 
not explode, and the bulk of it is currently lodged in the 
ground at the impact site.  Georgian officials have made a 
concerted effort to be transparent with us and the rest of 
the international community -- even inviting the diplomatic 
corps to visit the scene August 7.  They argue that the lack 
of international condemnation against Russia for previous 
incidents -- including the March 11 bombing in the Upper 
Kodori Gorge -- has encouraged Russian adventurism, and they 
are pushing for a more forceful international response this 
time.  End Summary. 
Collecting Evidence, and Identifying Motive 
2. (C) Georgian officials informed Embassy the night of the 
attack, and Embassy officers have seen the impact site and 
missile remains with Russian markings.  First Deputy Foreign 
Minister Nikoloz Vashakidze briefed the diplomatic corps 
August 7, saying that eyewitnesses, radar records, and the 
missile itself confirm that the planes crossed from Russia a 
bit before 1830 local time and released the missile near the 
end of a 20-30 minute operation.  He noted that the impact 
site was about 80 kilometers south of the Russian-Georgian 
border, and about 60 kilometers west of Tbilisi.  Commenting 
on the likely motive for the attack, Vashakidze suggested two 
explanations: first, he noted that the Georgian initiative 
aimed at "peaceful settlement of the South Ossetia conflict" 
via the creation of a temporary autonomous unit and a 
commission to define the entity's autonomous status, was 
going well, and that Russia "perhaps does not appreciate" 
this process and was attempting to stop it.  Second, he 
stressed that the international community had not 
sufficiently addressed the March 11 attack in the Upper 
Kodori Gorge, and this had encouraged the Russians to 
"repeat" such an attack, this time at an even "more dangerous 
level."  He said the bombing was in some sense a "testing" of 
Georgia and the international community, and that it would be 
important to react strongly enough to prevent other such 
dangerous situations in the future. 
3. (C) According to radar records that the Georgians shared 
with Embassy DAO, there were three penetrations of Georgian 
airspace near Kazbegi.  The first was a shallow incursion. 
The second and third incursions followed similar tracks from 
Kazbegi into the separatist region of South Ossetia and back. 
 The data on the third incursion reveals two aircraft during 
the turn.  It is possible that all three incursions were by 
two aircraft, and possibly by the same two aircraft.  The 
speed and maneuverability of the aircraft indicate that they 
were most likely SU 24s, although it is possible they were SU 
27s or 29s.  Ministry of Internal Affairs officials have told 
us that the South Ossetians fired a Strela missile at the 
departing aircraft, but Vashakidze did not mention this in 
his briefing.  South Ossetian officials have been quoted 
claiming the incident was a Georgian attack. 
4. (C) The impact site is in a Georgian-controlled area just 
south of the former South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast, and 
just north of the main highway from Tbilisi to western 
Georgia.  OSCE officials confirmed to us that the site is 
inside the area generally called the "zone of conflict" (more 
precisely called the Area of Responsibility of the Joint 
Peacekeeping Force, or JPKF) and because of this OSCE 
monitors and JPKF forces had been able to visit the scene. 
The OSCE Mission is currently awaiting the monitors' report. 
According to OSCE, this area has generally not been known for 
ethnic tensions or the kind of shooting incidents that have 
regularly occurred closer to Tskhinvali.  The Georgians 
believe that the intended target might have been a mobile 
radar station located 125 meters away from the impact site. 
A Measured Georgian Response 
5. (C) President Saakashvili was returning from Europe when 
the incident occurred and he convened a cabinet meeting upon 
arrival to coordinate the Georgian reaction.  In the hours 
after the attack Charge urged Foreign Minister Bezhuashvili 
and other Georgian officials to continue the moderate tone 
and measured responses they have taken thus far, in order to 
allow the incident to speak for itself.  Bezhuashvili assured 
Charge that Georgia was planning no retaliatory or aggressive 
responses but would ensure that the incident received the 
TBILISI 00001958  002 OF 002 
public and international attention it deserved.  He said 
there was growing frustration and concern in the Georgian 
leadership about Russian intentio
ns following the March 11 
attack by Russian helicopters in Kodori, and the Georgians 
believe the weak international response to such incidents in 
the past has encouraged the Russians to launch further 
6. (C) The Georgians have assured us they understand the need 
to respond calmly to this incident, and they have quickly 
mobilized to get information out to the international 
community.  They clearly hope that an investigation of this 
incident will assign blame more squarely on Russia than did 
the investigation of the March 11 attack, so that it might 
serve as a deterrent to future such incidents which could 
(especially if they produce fatalities) cause strong domestic 
political pressure for a more vigorous Georgian response. 
Georgian officials have told us in the past that they believe 
Russia provokes periodic confrontations in order to make 
Georgia seem less stable, and therefore make western European 
countries less inclined to support Georgia's NATO 
aspirations.  Because Russia is a larger and more influential 
country, the Georgians argue, Russia can provoke an incident 
with Georgia and -- even when Russian responsibility is 
clear, as with March 11 -- the European reaction is to call 
on Georgia to make more concessions.  In responding to this 
incident, our approach should be aimed at preventing this 
dynamic from repeating itself; attacking Georgia militarily 
should not be allowed to slow or block Georgia's NATO 


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