08TBILISI1327, GEORGIANS SEEK CALM IN SOUTH OSSETIA AND ARE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI1327 2008-08-04 14:17 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO5464
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1327/01 2171417
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 041417Z AUG 08 ZDK PER YOUR RUEHMO #4236
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9848
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001327 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/04/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL RS GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIANS SEEK CALM IN SOUTH OSSETIA AND ARE 
PUZZLED BY RUSSIAN MFA ACTIONS 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 1317 
     B. TBILISI 1161 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Begin Summary and Comment: On the evening of 1 
August sniper activity erupted around South Ossetian villages 
and soon expanded into mortar fire which continued until the 
morning of 2 August when events calmed.  OSCE military 
monitors said that the use of mortars by both sides and the 
range of the shelling, usually confined to the 
Southwest/Southeast of Tskhinvali spread on these dates from 
the Northeast to Southwest of Tskhinvali.  Such wide-scale 
fighting has not been seen since 2004.  It is unclear who 
initiated the preliminary volleys, as well the number and 
types of casualties who were affected by it.  During the 
weekend's events, the Saakashvili administration remained 
level-headed, with President Saakashvili and State Minister 
for Reintegration Temuri Yakobashvili assuring Acting Russian 
Foreign Minister Denisov that the Georgians had no intentions 
of resuming hostilities and requesting Denisov speak with de 
facto South Ossetian leader Kokoity to dial down the 
rhetoric.  Denisov agreed, but on the following day the 
Russian MFA reversed course and issued a statement about 
imminent war, Kokoity announced evacuation of South 
Ossetians, and Abkhaz de facto leader Bagapsh talked about 
not going to Berlin for talks on the Abkhaz-Georgian 
conflict.  Tensions have been rising for the last couple of 
weeks in South Ossetia, due to the assassination attempt on 
Sanakoyev (ref A) and a double IED attack on August 1 (ref 
B), but the Ministry of Interior has denied the Georgians 
mounted a retaliatory strike which began this weekend's 
firefight. OSCE expects to release its official report of the 
events which occurred August 1-2 on Monday August 4.  End 
Summary and Comment. 
 
Fog of Battle 
------------- 
 
2.  (C)  Sniper fire began at 1800 on Friday August 1 in 
South Ossetia and grew into what became an all-night 
firefight 20 minutes later, with Georgia and South Ossetia 
sides using mortars, until 0700 on Saturday August 2 when 
events calmed. Earlier Friday there were casualties on the 
by-pass road due to two IEDs (ref B).  Although OSCE military 
observers cannot pinpoint who initiated the opening volleys 
of the firefight, President Saakashvili told Ambassador that 
the shelling that took place early Saturday morning was 
started by the Ossetians.  They had shelled a Georgian 
village.  Initially the Georgians had not responded, but 
after a second village was shelled, Georgian MOIA troops had 
returned fire. The Georgians report the death of one 
policeman and ten wounded, and the Ossetians claim six dead 
and 13-15 wounded. It is still unclear if those who were 
wounded were militia or noncombatants.  The use of mortars 
can cause indiscriminate deaths as they cannot be employed 
with precision accuracy. 
 
Russian MFA--We'll "Shut-Up" Kokoity 
--------------------------------------- 
 
3.  (C)  President Saakashvili called the Ambassador at 1830 
on Saturday August 2 to express his personal concern over the 
Ossetian evacuation from Tskhinvali, and to make sure U.S . 
officials understood that Georgia did not want further 
conflict.  He reiterated that Georgian forces had stood down 
and did not want to initiate hostilities.  They had conveyed 
this message to the Ossetians through every channel they 
could.  Saakashvili was particularly upset by what he deemed 
to be a reversal of Russian policy from Saturday August 2 to 
Sunday August 3.  On Saturday August 2 Russian Deputy Foreign 
Minister Denisov had talked to Georgian Deputy Foreign 
Minister Vashadze and both sides agreed to work to prevent 
further violence.  Saakashvili said that Denisov said that if 
the Georgians undertook not to resume fighting, "We will shut 
Kokoity up."  This agreed strategy had worked and there was 
no violence from Saturday until Sunday. A moderate statement 
had been issued by the Russian MFA. 
 
The Russian Tone Changes 
------------------------ 
 
4.  (C)  Then on Sunday August 3 the Russian tone changed. 
The South Ossetians started evacuating inhabitants from 
Tskhinvali, the Russian MFA issued a shrill statement 
claiming war was imminent, Abkhaz de facto leader Bagapsh 
announced he would not go to Berlin to meet with Georgians on 
resolving the Abkhaz conflict, and Russian television implied 
war was about to break out.  There were those on the Georgian 
side who feared that Russia might be trying to instigate a 
 
TBILISI 00001327  002 OF 002 
 
 
conflict, and had suggested Georgia mobilize.  Saakashvili 
told the Ambassador that he had decided not to do that, for 
fear it would play into the hands of those wanting war.  That 
said, Saakashvili wondered what the Russian game was.  He did 
not think Russia wanted war, but was the action in South 
Ossetia being used to justify some further Russian military 
move in Abkhazia?  Was the weekend violence stimulated by 
Kokoity and his Russian securi
ty advisors led by de facto 
Minister of Defense Mindzaev, or was there some larger 
Russian plan unfolding?  He asked the Ambassador for any 
information U.S. intelligence might have on the situation, 
particularly anything which could explain Russian motives. 
 
Something Is Rotten in Moscow 
----------------------------- 
 
5.  (C)  The Ambassador called Saakashvili later in the 
evening on Sunday to brief him in general terms on EUR 
Assistant Secretary Fried,s telephone conversation with 
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Karasin.  Saakashvili was 
grateful for U.S. efforts to calm the situation.  He returned 
again to the question of Russian motivation. Did they want 
war, or were they just reacting to Kokoity and Mindzaev?  He 
made clear that the weekend,s violence had started with the 
IED attack on Georgian police on the bypass road to Georgian 
villages on Friday morning August 1.  Saakashvili said he had 
been told that the Ossetians had fired 500 shells at the 
Georgian villages, which his experts calculated cost $3.5 
million dollars.  There was some damage but the villagers 
would pull through.  Again, Saakashvili asked who authorized 
this shelling and who is going to pay for it? 
 
Georgian Economy:  Butter, Not Guns 
----------------------------------- 
 
6.  (C)  Saakashvili closed with two additional points. 
First, the Georgians did not target civilians in Ossetia as 
the Ossetians and Russian television were claiming.  The 
Georgians understood that only South Ossetian militia were 
killed in the early Saturday firing.  Second, Saakashvili 
said he wanted Washington to know that he recognizes this 
kind of violence is a strong disincentive for businessmen to 
invest in Georgia.  News about the violence flies around 
quickly via the wire services and the internet.  Georgia does 
not need nor want such violence, because it needs more 
foreign direct investment.  He said that the Georgian 
government had recently reduced its GDP projection for 
calendar year 2008 from 10 percent to 8 percent growth.  More 
violence in the separatist regions will only exacerbate the 
economic problems for Georgia. 
 
Fresh Look on a Monday 
---------------------- 
 
7.  (C)  Ryan Grist, Deputy Chief of the OSCE in Tbilisi, 
told Poloff on Monday August 4 that it appeared that Yuri 
Popov, Russian Chief Negotiator for South Ossetia, would be 
returning by week's end.  Grist was encouraged that 
Yakobashvili's offer to meet with South Ossetian counterparts 
had not been refused.  Grist discounted that the 
"evacuations," some still underway in the early morning of 
August 4, were related to the weekend's events. He said also 
that there are no indications that the Georgians are 
reinforcing their positions or bringing in additional heavy 
weaponry out of the ordinary, but opined there has been less 
control of reinforcement by both sides in the last months due 
to the lack of JCC talks.  Grist did say that OSCE monitors 
are on the look-out for outsiders from the Northern Caucasus, 
as their appearance could be a bad omen of things to come. 
The OSCE report of the weekend's events is expected to be 
released on Monday August 4.  Dmitri Manjavidze, Georgia's 
Chief Negotiator for the JCC, told Poloff that the exodus of 
busloads of women and children were planned four months ago 
as part of a normal August ritual in South Ossetia and this 
was being politicized in light of the past weekend's events. 
 
TEFFT

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