08TBILISI1391, GEORGIA: SITREP 13

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI1391 2008-08-19 11:53 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO3863
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1391/01 2321153
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191153Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9917
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001391 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC AND TASKFORCE-1 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/12/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM RU GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: SITREP 13 
 
REF: TBILISI 1372 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D) 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  As of 1600 August 19, there is still no 
evidence of Russian troops withdrawing from Georgia.  Russian 
checkpoints remain along the main East-West highway on both 
sides of Gori.  Embassy officers who attempted to drive up 
the road from Tbilisi to Gori were turned back after the 
second checkpoint.  OSCE military observers were able to 
access both Gori (8/19) and the city of Akhlagori (8/18). 
Russian troops reportedly threatened Georgian troops in the 
base at Sachkere, west of South Ossetia in Georgia proper. 
End Summary. 
 
STILL NO EVIDENCE OF RUSSIAN WITHDRAWAL 
--------------------------------------- 
 
2. (C) As of 1600 August 19, there is still no sign of a 
Russian withdrawal from Georgian territory, including South 
Ossetia.  To the contrary, Russian troops were reportedly 
moving around the occupied areas of Georgia, undertaking 
missions of varying military significance.  The GOG reports 
that Russian troops set mines on roads and bridges in Kaspi 
and Mestia, as well as other areas they occupy.  The Russians 
reportedly left the military base at Senaki and returned 
later in the day on August 18.  During the course of the day, 
the airfield was dynamited.  Russian soldiers burned cottages 
at the "Patriot" youth camp near the Abkhaz cease-fire line. 
At the the village of Lamiskana, near Igoeti, on the Georgian 
side of the South Ossetian cease-fire line, Russian tanks 
crushed Georgian police vehicles that had attempted to impede 
their progress into the town.  No shots were reported to have 
been fired.  Drunken Russian soldiers did fire into the air 
as they harassed workers at a pumping station on BP's 
Baku-Supsa pipline, as reported by the pipeline's operator, 
BP.  The soldiers wandered off later in the afternoon and did 
not return. 
 
3.  (C)  The major east-west highway between Tbilisi and Gori 
remains closed to regular traffic and dotted with Russian 
checkpoints.  Journalists and some defense attaches were 
refused permission to enter Gori and were requested to show 
Russian visas or Russian-issued press credentials.  However, 
on August 19, an OSCE military observer was able to drive 
from Tbilisi through Gori to Khashuri, after being stopped 
the day before.  He saw no sign of a withdrawal.  Russian 
Regular Forces and unarmed Georgian police manned a 
checkpoint outside of Khashuri and all was quiet.  In the 
town of Khashuri people were going about their normal lives 
with no evidence of panic.  Russian checkpoints are flying 
the CIS-PKF peacekeepers' flag.  The Georgians reported that 
the Russian military approached the commander of the Georgian 
base at Sachkere, west of South Ossetia in Georgia proper and 
asked entry.  When he refused, the Russian reportedly 
threatened to return with reinforcements.  The Georgians fear 
a future confrontation. 
 
 
FOOD SHORTAGES IN GORI 
---------------------- 
 
4.  According to USAID, although some food convoys are 
getting through, experts believe that Gori is not receiving 
sufficient supplies of food because of the continuing Russian 
checkpoints.  The railroad to Tbilisi remains cut due to the 
damaged railroad bridge (repairs began August 17 and are 
continuing).  Armenia and Azerbaijan, both of whom depend on 
the Georgian railway system for trade and commerce, are 
providing assistance to repair the bridge.  USAID is 
assisting the Georgian government to organize a shipment of 
food to Gori.  National Security Advisor Kakha Lomaia, who 
has been the key Georgian official in Gori, is negotiating 
with the Russian commander there to get the shipment through. 
 
 
MORE REPORTS OF LOOTING 
----------------------- 
 
5. (C) Two Georgians in Zugdidi complained to UNOMIG 
observers that "Russians" had looted their houses, and others 
in their neighborhood, They said nothing was being spared by 
the looters.  Reportedly, Russian troops have stripped 
Georgian installations they have occupied of anything 
valuable, right down to the toilet seats.  Thus inspired, 
protesters outside the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi mockingly 
offered the diplomats inside toilet seats.  On a more serious 
note, there were reports that Russian soldiers were removing 
everything of value from both the military and commercial 
sides of the port at Poti. 
 
 
TBILISI 00001391  002 OF 002 
 
 
PRISONER EXCHANGE COMPLETED, BUT RUSSIANS TAKE MORE 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
6. (C) Negotiations for a prisoner exchange between Russia 
and Georgia were stalled by disagreements over the number of 
prisoners held by the sides, but ultimately the prisoners 
were exchanged on August 19, with the help of the French 
Ambassador in Tbilisi.  Both sides had sought an "all for 
all" exchange of prisoners held, but it is not clear whether 
either side still holds any prisoners or not.  On August 14, 
there were unconfirme
d reports that Russian troops had taken 
a new group of Georgian soldiers prisoner in Poti. 
 
MORE THAN 100,000 IDP'S REGISTERED 
---------------------------------- 
 
7. (U) UNHRC reported that the number of internally displaced 
persons has reached 160,000.  The Georgian Ministry of 
Refugee Affairs count of registerd IDP's is 104,234 in about 
600 shelters.  Although South Ossetian de facto president 
Kokoity is reported to have said that no Georgian IDP's will 
be allowed to return to their homes in South Ossetia, he was 
contradicted by the Russian Foreign Ministry.  However, the 
Ministry implied that return of the IDP's is likely to be a 
years-long process. 
 
GEORGIAN CIVILIANS KIDNAPPED 
---------------------------- 
 
8.  (C) Deputy Foreign Minister Gigi Bokeria told the 
Ambassador that 14 Georgian civilians in South Ossetia have 
been kidnapped and are being held in Tskhinvali. He told 
Poloff that 250 Georgian civilians are being held in a camp 
in Tskhinvali and are being forced to work. 
 
AZERIS CANCEL BIG CONTRACT WITH TBILAVIAMSHENI 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
9.  (U) A Tbilisi businessman in a position to know told us 
that all-but-completed negotiations for a $135 million 
contract between the Azerbaijan government and Tbilisi 
aircraft manufacturer Tbilaviamsheni to refurbish Azeri SU-25 
military jets were scuttled by the Azeris in the last few 
days.  The Tbilaviamsheni factory's aircraft runway was a 
target of Russian bombs last week.  The large contract would 
have been a major boost for Tbilaviamsheni, one of the few 
complex technology manufacturers in Georgia. 
 
FOREST FIRES CONTINUE TO BURN 
----------------------------- 
 
10.  (U) Forest fires that are believed to have been 
intentionally set by Russian forces continued to burn in the 
Borjomi National Park, despite efforts to control them.  At 
least one new fire was detected August 19 near the village of 
Kvabiskhvevi. 
TEFFT

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