08TBILISI1868, GEORGIA: RUSSIAN FORCES WITHDRAW

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI1868 2008-10-08 14:42 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1342
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1868/01 2821442
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081442Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0233
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0133
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 4704
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 2193

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001868 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR GEORGIA MONITORING GROUP AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/08/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL MOPS RU GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: RUSSIAN FORCES WITHDRAW 
 
REF: TBILISI 1847 
 
Classified By: DCM KENT LOGSDON FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1. (C)  Summary and comment.  Multiple sources confirm 
Russian forces withdrew from nearly all remaining posts on 
undisputed Georgian territory on October 8, two days before 
the deadline.  Russian military and local Georgian officials 
signed documents transferring the points outside Abkhazia 
back to Georgia; Russian officials sought to sign similar 
documents with EUMM monitors for the points outside South 
Ossetia, but the EUMM refused.  Both uniformed and special 
forces of the Georgian Interior Ministry began moving into 
the areas abandoned by the Russians; they will reportedly 
establish ten offices in the areas adjacent to South Ossetia, 
where they had two before the conflict.  As Georgian forces 
approach the administrative boundary of South Ossetia, all 
eyes will be on how they manage to maintain order with 
Ossetian forces nearby.  The EUMM hopes to facilitate 
communication between the Georgians and the Ossetians through 
this process.  Akhalgori remains an area of particular 
concern.  There is real potential for misunderstanding among 
various parties about the EUMM's proper role in ensuring 
security.  End summary and comment. 
 
RUSSIANS DEPART 
 
2.  (C) EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM). OSCE and UNOMIG sources 
confirmed that Russian forces withdrew from nearly all the 
remaining posts in undisputed Georgian territory October 8. 
Outside Abkhazia only one post remains, near Pakhulani. 
UNOMIG understood this post to be outside the Abkhaz 
administrative boundary, but Russian forces at the post said 
it was inside Abkhazia and they would not be leaving.  UNOMIG 
noted to the Embassy, however, that Colonel Rogozin, 
commander of Russian forces in western Georgia, had included 
Pakhulani in the list of posts to be abandoned.  The 
Pakhulani checkpoint is just south of the Enguri Dam, but 
does not control access to the dam, because other roads also 
lead there. 
 
3. (SBU) EUMM and OSCE sources confirmed that, as of 1600 on 
October 8, the Russian withdrawal from the areas adjacent to 
South Ossetia was nearly complete, with the few remaining 
Russian forces expected to leave shortly, including a few 
forces waiting for a truck to pick up a loaded container at 
the Natsreti/Shavshvebi post. 
 
4. (C) EUMM sources told the Embassy that in western Georgia, 
Russian officials signed documents with low-level local 
Georgian officials transferring authority over the posts back 
to Georgia.  The Russian side asked EUMM monitors to sign the 
documents as witnesses, but the monitors refused.  Georgian 
officials suggested to the EUMM that the documents had no 
legal weight, because the Georgian officials who signed them 
had no authority to do so.  The EUMM also noted that, 
although the Russian officials affixed an official stamp to 
the documents, the Georgians did not, further limiting any 
legal significance.  Outside South Ossetia, Russian officials 
asked EUMM monitors to be the primary signatories on the same 
documents, suggesting that the EUMM would be responsible for 
securing the posts upon the Russians' departure; the EUMM 
refused. 
 
GEORGIANS MOVE IN 
 
5. (C) All monitoring organizations likewise confirmed that, 
as the Russian forces departed, Georgian Interior Ministry 
forces moved into the area.  The size of the Interior forces 
moving in varied widely, from one or two officers to several 
vehicles full.  The Interior Ministry informed post the 
composition of the forces included both uniformed and special 
forces.  The Deputy Head of the EUMM, Gilles Janvier, told 
PolOff that the Georgians intended eventually to establish 
ten permanent offices in the areas abandoned by the Russians, 
although they had only had two in the region before the 
conflict. 
 
WHO'S IN CHARGE? 
 
6. (C) As noted in reftel, the Russian departure will place 
Georgian forces next to large sections of Ossetian-controlled 
areas for the first time since the August conflict. 
Considering the multiple incidents of violence in recent 
weeks, there is a real danger of such incidents continuing. 
All sides seem to recognize this danger.  By seeking direct 
EUMM involvement in the transfer of the posts outside South 
 
TBILISI 00001868  002 OF 002 
 
 
Ossetia, the Russians seem to be seeking a binding commitment 
from the EUMM -- a civilian, unarmed mission -- to be 
directly involved in providing security.  Janvier explained 
to PolOff that the EUMM's responsibility is not to provide 
security directly, but to monitor the provision of security 
by the appropriate authorities.  Head of the EUMM Hansjorg 
Haber explained to PolOffs in a separate meeting that the 
EUMM is interested in facilitating communication between 
Georgian and de facto interior f
orces in hopes of improving 
coordination.  The Georgians themselves seemed to Haber to be 
receptive to such coordination; they seemed unconcerned about 
whether such contact would confer legitimacy on de facto 
officials.  Haber thought the South Ossetians would be the 
ones to refuse such contact. 
 
7. (C) In discussions earlier in the week, the Russians asked 
Haber to sign two memoranda of understanding (MOU) after 
their withdrawal was complete.  One would limit the presence 
of Georgian armed troops in the areas abandoned by the 
Russians, and one would certify that Russia has met its 
obligation to pull back to pre-war positions and that the 
EUMM would not seek country-wide Georgia access (including 
Abkhazia and South Ossetia).  Haber explained that the EUMM 
would of course refuse to sign such documents.  He noted that 
the first proposed MOU sought to blur the distinction between 
Georgian interior and military troops and thereby limit the 
extent to which police units could be deployed. 
 
7. (C) In response to Russian concerns about the Georgian 
Interior Ministry's weapons, Haber inspected the Gori police 
station and its weapons, coming away convinced that they were 
appropriate.  He suggested that the biggest threat came from 
Ossetian irregulars; a member of his staff thought there were 
50 or 60 troublemakers that would continue to try to provoke 
the Georgians, and he thought it would be difficult for the 
Georgians not to respond. 
 
AKHALGORI -- STILL A CONCERN 
 
8. (C) Haber suggested the Georgians harbor unreasonably high 
hopes for the disposition of Akhalgori.  They indicated to 
him that they expected the Russians would return the area to 
Georgian control, but he thought the Russians would hold onto 
Akhalgori as a bargaining chip for some time.  He noted, 
however, that the Russians will have a difficult time 
supporting Akhalgori logistically.  There is currently only 
one cumbersome dirt road leading to Akhalgori from 
Tshkhinvali that does not cross into undisputed Georgian 
territory.  It will be impassable in winter, and supplying 
the area will therefore be very difficult from within South 
Ossetia. 
 
COMMENT: PROVOCATIONS POSSIBLE, BUT CONFUSION AS WELL 
 
9. (C) An OSCE military monitor suggested to PolOffs that the 
EUMM's mission was to provide security.  Haber's reports of 
his conversations with the Russians, along with their request 
for EUMM certification of various arrangements, suggest the 
Russians believe so as well.  Janvier took pains to clarify 
that the EUMM was very much a monitoring mission; that it 
would not be providing security directly, but taking steps to 
monitor the provision of security by the appropriate 
authorities.  The different interpretations of the EUMM's 
role seem to hinge on different readings of point 2 of the 
September 8 Sarkozy-Medvedev agreement, which calls for 
European Union "observers" to replace Russian "peacekeeping 
forces."  In the coming days and weeks, as the potential for 
provocations increases, all the monitoring missions will play 
an important role in tracking the situation, but it will be 
up to the actual authorities on the ground -- be they 
legitimate or de facto -- to take whatever steps are 
necessary and appropriate.  We will encourage the Georgian 
authorities to show restraint in those decisions, and we will 
have to look to the Russians to do the same on the Ossetian 
side, but we must beware of the potential argument that the 
EUMM is not taking sufficiently active steps to provide 
security itself. 
TEFFT

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