08TBILISI920, 400 RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE RAILWAY ENGINEERS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI920 2008-06-02 12:48 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO8805
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0920 1541248
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 021248Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9546
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 000920 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT. FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/03/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS GG
SUBJECT: 400 RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE RAILWAY ENGINEERS 
ENTER ABKHAZIA 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  On Saturday, May 31, Georgian Deputy 
Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze informed the Ambassador that 
ten trainloads of Russian construction troops had entered 
Abkhazia to begin reconstruction of the railroad at Dranda, 
north of Sukhumi.  Russia did not notify the Georgian 
government in advance of the deployment, he said, nor are 
they attached to the (entirely Russian) CIS peacekeeping 
mission in Abkhazia.  Vashadze noted that these troops were 
also road construction experts, and could be used to upgrade 
the road between Sukhumi and Upper Kodori Gorge, making it 
easier for Russian troops to advance into the 
Georgian-controlled Gorge.  Vashadze said that the Russian 
Ministry of Defense claims that the move is a humanitarian 
gesture, but Georgia sees the move as the next step in 
Russia's military occupation of Abkhazia.  The Georgian 
Foreign Ministry later issued a statement condemning the 
move, calling it an "act of open aggression."  End summary. 
 
Russia deploys 400 MOD engineers to Abkhazia 
-------------------------------------------- 
2.  (C) On May 31, in a move that drew strong and immediate 
Georgian condemnation, Russia deployed approximately 400 
Ministry of Defense engineers to Abkhazia.  Deputy Foreign 
Minister Vashadze called the Ambassador on May 31 to inform 
him of the Russian move.  Vashadze said the Georgian 
government had received no prior notification from Russia 
about the deployment, nor are they attached to the (entirely 
Russian) CIS peacekeeping mission in Abkhazia.  Vashadze 
thought the Russian deployment represented the next step 
toward a Russian military occupation of Abkhazia.  He added 
that the Russian troops were also road construction experts, 
and Georgian intelligence sources believe that they are there 
to improve the highway from Sukhumi to the Upper Kodori 
Gorge.  This, he speculated, would make it easier for Russian 
troops to advance into the Georgian-controlled Gorge. 
 
3.  (U) The Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 
May 31 condemning the Russian move, calling it an "act of 
open aggression."  The statement said the additional Russian 
troop deployment, being outside the framework of the CIS 
peacekeeping mission, constituted a blatant violation of 
international law and accused Russia of carrying out a 
blatant annexation of Georgian territory.  The statement 
demanded Russia immediately withdraw the troops from Abkhazia 
and noted that Russia would be fully responsible for any 
escalation of tension or clashes resulting from the 
deployment. 
 
Comment 
------- 
4.  (C) Russia continues to raise the stakes in Abkhazia in 
an apparent attempt to push Georgian patience to the breaking 
point and beyond.  The Russian troop deployment, coming a day 
after Georgian Ambassador to the UN, Irakli Alasania, 
announced that Georgia is conditionally suspending all 
unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flights over Abkhazia (a key 
Abkhaz and Russian concern) threatens to derail efforts to 
build upon President Saakashvili's peace proposal for 
Abkhazia in direct talks between the sides.  Georgian 
hard-liners will likely see the Russian move as yet another 
manifestation of Russia's "creeping annexation" of Abkhazia, 
Russia's hold growing stronger with each additional 
deployment of troops. 
TEFFT

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