08TBILISI1514, SENATOR CORKER SURVEYS DAMAGE IN GORI

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI1514 2008-09-05 05:45 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO5883
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #1514 2490545
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 050545Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0031
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS TBILISI 001514 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM GG RU
SUBJECT: SENATOR CORKER SURVEYS DAMAGE IN GORI 
 
REF: SBU - NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION 
 
1.  (SBU)  Senator Robert Corker (R-TN) traveled to Gori 
August 30, visiting an IDP center and meeting with various 
GOG officials to survey damage and assess the impact of the 
Russian invasion and occupation of Georgia.  Governor Lado 
Vardzelashvili explained that the resettlement of Gori is on 
schedule to be completed before the winter.  (Note:  Current 
GOG estimates are that 90% of the roughly 90,000 IDPs from 
the Gori area have returned).   Governor Vardzelashvili gave 
Senator Corker a personal tour of the damage done by Russian 
forces.  Local residents explained that air strikes damaged 
some residential buildings at a time when no Georgian forces 
were in the area.  One resident showed Senator Corker a small 
shed that housed all of his remaining belongings that the 
Russian and irregular forces did not steal during the 
occupation.  Residents shared with Senator Corker stories of 
drunk Russian soldiers demanding vodka from them and looting 
everything they could carry.  Scores of volunteers were seen 
at various sites in the city repairing damage caused by 
Russian forces and hauling away debris. 
 
2.  (SBU)  Governor Vardzelashvili explained that although 
Gori was relatively safe and secure, some surrounding 
villages were inaccessible to returning residents, and the 
threat of paramilitary action was still very real. 
Vardzelashvili was confident that IDPs returning to the city 
would quickly resume life as normal despite some heavy 
personal property losses.  Businesses are reopening and 
commercial activity is apparent although it will take time to 
return to the pre-conflict status quo.  Senator Corker's 
visit to a local school that is housing IDPs showed it to be 
well run; efficiently distributing USAID assistance to the 
local community at large.  IDPs explained the hardships they 
faced due to the Russian invasion, but expressed an optimism 
that they would soon be able to return to their villages. 
Senator Corker had an opportunity to address international 
and local press outside the shelter; in his remarks, the 
Senator highlighted the strong U.S. support for Georgia and 
for Georgia's democratically-elected government. 
 
3.  (SBU)  In Tbilisi, Senator Corker met with various GOG 
officials.  President Saakashvili explained Russian actions 
and intent from the Georgian point of view both locally and 
geopolitically.  Saakashvili praised U.S. support during the 
crisis and implored Sen. Corker to support a robust economic 
assistance package.  PM Gurgenidze presented an overview of 
his economic proposal (details to be reported septel).  PM 
Gurgenidze stated that the GOG has been remarkably resilient 
and argued that it would remain so barring an economic 
meltdown.  Deputy Speaker of Parliament Tsereteli concurred 
with the PM's assessment and urged U.S. support for NATO MAP 
and a large economic aid package.  Tsereteli opined that a 
strong American response would ensure Russia would not be 
able to bring about regime change in Georgia.  Tsereteli 
noted wryly that maybe now Europe would take Georgian 
warnings about Russia's intentions seriously. 
Parliamentarians Petre Tsiskarishvili (Majority Leader), 
Lasha Zhvania (Foreign Affairs Chair) and Akakiy Minashvili 
(Deputy Chairman of Legal Committee) all stressed to Senator 
Corker that Russia cannot be allowed to force regime change. 
They explained how far Georgia had come since 2004 as a 
virtual failed state to a country on the cusp of catching up 
with Romania and Bulgaria economically.  All stressed 
Georgia's solid foundation both economically and politically, 
but also asked for Senator Corker's support for the PM's 
economic requests. 
 
4.  (U)  Senator Corker did not have an opportunity to clear 
this cable prior to his departure from Tbilisi. 
TEFFT

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