08TBILISI1527, GEORGIA: SITREP 26: STORIES ABOUND IN ABKHAZIA,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI1527 2008-09-08 13:17 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO7586
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #1527/01 2521317
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081317Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0047
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0095

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001527 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM RU GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: SITREP 26: STORIES ABOUND IN ABKHAZIA, 
BUT LITTLE CONFIRMED 
 
REF: TBILISI 1523 
 
1. (SBU)  Summary.  Stories persist of Abkhaz plans to 
construct a wall along the border, but UNOMIG observers have 
discovered only limited evidence.  Villagers are also 
reporting rumors of Abkhaz plans for Russian passports, 
conscription, and compulsory use of the Abkhaz language in 
schools.  The OSCE was refused all movements past Russian 
checkpoints September 8 and informed that advance 
notification would now be required; the OSCE is protesting. 
A group of Baltic and Scandinavian officials was also refused 
access past a Russian checkpoint September 5 and protested 
publicly.  Two by-elections in Tbilisi and local elections in 
Ajara will be held November 3.  The September 5-6 visit of 
the USS Mt. Whitney and associated delivery of humanitarian 
assistance went smoothly.  End Summary. 
 
ABKHAZIA DEVELOPMENTS: RUMORS RAMPANT 
------------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) UNOMIG gathered scattered but still inconclusive 
evidence of preparations for the construction of a wall along 
the Abkhazia administrative border.  A Georgian defense 
official told UNOMIG officials that the Abkhaz side was 
beginning construction of a wall, but provided no further 
information.  Local residents near Rukhi reported they had 
seen construction of a wall between a CIS peacekeeping 
checkpoint and an Abkhaz post, with some comparing it to the 
Berlin Wall, but UNOMIG officials did not themselves see it. 
A man in Tkaia reported seeing Abkhaz dig along the Inguri 
River.  A local official in Zugdidi told UNOMIG officials 
that, although he himself had not seen it, he knew that three 
truckloads of barbed wire had arrived in Gali for 
construction of a border fence; he also had heard reports of 
fence posts holes being dug.  Some individuals suggested that 
Abkhaz construction activity, including digging, was meant 
only to strengthen existing checkpoints, not establish a 
border wall; a Russian peacekeeping commander confirmed that 
such activity was taking place.  The only activity observed 
by UNOMIG officials themselves that might relate to the 
construction of a wall was a backhoe digging near a bridge in 
late August and some activity in early September at the same 
location with a few meters of sheet metal/siding that could 
be construed as a wall.  These actions at the time did not 
strike the UNOMIG officials as unusual and did not appear in 
official reports. 
 
3. (SBU) UNOMIG officials have heard reports that locals can 
apply for Abkhaz "passports" by the end of September.  One 
villager indicated she and her family would apply because 
they have no means to support themselves on the Georgia 
proper side of the border.  Other locals report that Abkhaz 
"authorities" will introduce conscription by the end of 
September as well; individuals will allegedly be able to 
avoid the mandatory two years of service by paying $300 to 
the "government."  In Sabchota-Chai, a teenager told UNOMIG 
he heard that Abkhaz education "officials" plan to use Abkhaz 
as the official language in school, although no changes had 
yet been made.  Payments for border crossings near Samarkvalo 
reportedly vary from 25 lari to cross from Abkhazia into 
Georgia proper with documents, 50 lari without documents; it 
then costs 10 lari to cross back. 
 
4. (SBU) UNOMIG also happened upon and helped defuse a 
confrontation between journalists from TV station Rustavi 2 
and Russian personnel at a checkpoint in Tsaishi (southwest 
of Zugdidi), which Rustavi 2 reported as the detention of its 
staff.  Upon the appearance of the UNOMIG patrol, four 
Russian armored personnel carriers departed the location at 
high speed.  UNOMIG noted that all four vehicles were 
400-series BTRs, which have not been recorded before in the 
Zugdidi sector, and therefore new to the area of 
responsibility. 
 
5. (SBU) Locals in Gamogma Kariata (north of Poti) reported 
on September 7 they had heard that the Russians would be 
leaving September 8; however, there has been no movement as 
of yet. 
 
OSCE: NO ACCESS WITHOUT PRIOR APPROVAL 
-------------------------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) On September 8 Russian forces did not allow OSCE 
observers to pass any checkpoints and informed the OSCE that 
groups of monitors could not arrive at checkpoints 
unannounced and expect passage, but that all movements must 
be coordinated in advance at a senior level.  The OSCE plans 
to protest this apparent change in the modus operandi.  On 
 
TBILISI 00001527  002 OF 002 
 
 
September 6 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent out an alert 
suggesting that Ossetian militias were threatening to burn 
down the village of Nikozi, a few kilometers southeast of 
Tskhinvali, if local residents did not pay $10,000.  Russian 
forces did not allow OSCE monitors into Nikozi to check on 
the situation, but told the OSCE
that only one house was on 
fire, and that local firefighters successfully extinguished 
it.  The Ministry of Internal Affairs confirmed that Russian 
forces indicated they would ensure the security of the 
village. 
 
7. (U) On September 5 ambassadors to Georgia from Estonia, 
Latvia and Sweden, along with the Deputy Foreign Minister of 
Lithuania, were refused passage past the outer ring of 
Russian checkpoints in two locations, at Variani and 
Karaleti.  The officials issued a public statement condemning 
the refusal as a violation of the Vienna Convention on 
Diplomatic Relations and the cease-fire agreement and 
expressing concerns of possible ethnic cleansing in villages 
in South Ossetia. 
 
BY-ELECTIONS TO BE HELD NOVEMBER 3 
---------------------------------- 
 
8. (SBU) The Georgian Central Election Commission (CEC) 
announced September 6 that majoritarian by-elections for two 
Tbilisi districts, Didube #2 and Vake #8, would be held 
November 3.  These are the seats that David Gamkrelidze and 
David Saganelidze won but refused to accept.  Several 
opposition parties, including the United National Movement 
(UNM), Labor Party, New Rights Party, and the Republican 
Party, declared they would not participate.  While the ruling 
UNM explained that it would refrain to give the opposition 
"the chance to consolidate," Republican leader Dato 
Usupashvili protested the timing, suggesting that current 
circumstances rendered a normal campaign or free and fair 
elections impossible.  The CEC also announced that elections 
to the Ajara Autonomous Republic Supreme Council, to be 
organized by the Supreme Election Commission, would  also be 
held on November 3. 
 
VISIT OF USS MT. WHITNEY A SUCCESS 
-------------------------------------- 
 
9.  (SBU)  On September 6, the USS Mt. Whitney offloaded 
humanitarian assistance from its position one mile off the 
coast of the Port of Poti.  The shipments met with no 
subsequent difficulties in their overland transport past 
Russian checkpoints outside Poti.  The visit received broad 
coverage from local and international press, and the local 
American Chamber of Commerce expressed its appreciation to 
post for the positive signal the visit sent to investors 
regarding the operation of the port. 
TEFFT

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