09TBILISI96, GEORGIA: WINTER LULL IN INCIDENTS ABRUPTLY ENDS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI96 2009-01-20 14:32 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO0738
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0096/01 0201432
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 201432Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 4761
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE IMMEDIATE 2240
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0795
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0168

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000096 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/20/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL MOPS KBTS RU GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: WINTER LULL IN INCIDENTS ABRUPTLY ENDS 
 
REF: A. 08 TBILISI 2495 
     B. HTTP://WWW.MFA.GOV.GE/INDEX.PHP?LANG_ID=ENG&S EC_I- 
        D=36&INFO_ID=8778 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary and comment.  After a few weeks of relative 
calm over the holidays -- which saw several attacks, but no 
injuries -- a number of serious incidents occurred along the 
administrative boundaries with South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 
recent days.  On January 16 a Georgan police officer was 
murdered in Knolevi, outside South Ossetia; on January 18 a 
Georgian police officer was wounded near Khurcha, outside 
Abkhazia; and on January 19 two Georgian police officers were 
wounded in Dvani, outside South Ossetia.  The Georgian 
government is concerned that Russian forces may have 
perpetrated some of the attacks and plans to suggest to 
European missions that the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) be 
strengthened, either with increased numbers or weapons. 
Although the Georgian side has shown remarkable restraint in 
not responding to these attacks in recent months, they did 
return fire in the January 18 and 19 incidents, and it is 
becoming harder for them to refrain from defending 
themselves.  Considering the February 15 end of UNOMIG's 
mandate and the February 18 end of the OSCE monitoring 
mission, with no immediate agreement permitting the 
continuation of either yet in sight, the Georgian request for 
additional help is understandable.  End summary and comment. 
 
"CALM" BEFORE THE STORM 
 
2. (SBU) All three monitoring missions -- the EUMM, OSCE, and 
UNOMIG -- have noted an absence of serious incidents in 
recent weeks, attributing the relative quiet to both the 
holidays and the cold weather.  This sense of "quiet" can 
only be defined by the lack of injuries, however; attacks 
have continued.  In all these instances, post is unaware of 
cases in which the Georgian side has returned fire.  On the 
night of January 13-14, a number of rocket-propelled grenades 
(RPGs) and small-arms fire were directed at a Georgian 
Interior Ministry post near Khurcha from the Abkhaz side of 
the administrative boundary; no one was injured.  Likewise on 
January 11 an explosive device, possibly an RPG, and 
machine-gun and small-arms fire were directed from the South 
Ossetian side of the administrative boundary at a Georgian 
Interior Ministry post in Zemo Nikozi; no one was injured. 
Some property damage was sustained by an Interior Ministry 
post at Ganmukhuri on January 8 in an attack involving 
roughly 15 automatic grenades and small-arms fire; no one was 
injured.  On January 4, an Interior Ministry post in 
Ganmukhuri also came under attack, possibly by grenades and 
small-arms fire; no one was injured. 
 
THE STORM 
 
3. (SBU) At 10:00 A.M. on January 16, an OSCE patrol visited 
a Georgian Interior Ministry post in Knolevi, which is 
between 500 and 800 meters from the South Ossetian 
administrative boundary southwest of Tskhinvali.  The 
monitors heard a single "muffled shot" and saw a police 
officer standing on the outside porch fall to the ground. 
The Georgian side did not return fire.  After taking steps to 
protect themselves, the monitors then saw that 27-year-old 
Mamuka Kakhniashvili had taken a single shot directly to the 
heart and likely died instantly.  They concluded that a 
silenced sniper rifle could have been used in the attack. 
Interior Ministry investigators later told them that the shot 
QInterior Ministry investigators later told them that the shot 
was likely taken from 200-250 meters away, and a 7.62mm 
bullet was used.  The Interior Ministry informed post that 
two Russian MI-8 helicopters, as well as a Russian "Tiger" 
all-terrain vehicle, were seen in the area, and suggested 
that Russian forces may have been behind the attack.  The 
OSCE did not observe the helicopters, but did receive reports 
of them in the area afterwards, and suggested that Russian 
forces may have arrived to defuse tensions. 
 
4. (SBU) At 5:00 A.M. on January 18, UNOMIG reported one RPG 
and gunfire were directed at a Georgian Interior Ministry 
post near Khurcha, on the Abkhaz administrative boundary; 
Georgian officers returned fire.  One police officer was 
slightly wounded in the arm, either by shrapnel or a bullet. 
 
5. (SBU) At 5:00 P.M. on January 19, the Interior Ministry 
confirmed two of its vehicles -- a pickup truck and a COBRA 
armored vehicle -- came under sustained fire while traveling 
near Dvani, on the South Ossetian administrative boundary 
southwest of Tskhinvali, and the Georgian officers returned 
 
TBILISI 00000096  002 OF 002 
 
 
fire.  The OSCE determined that the attack originated in the 
vicinity of Veleebi, northwest of Dvani on the Ossetian side 
of the boundary; that a machine gun was likely used;
 and that 
two Georgian officers were wounded.  The driver of the pickup 
received a serious wound in shoulder, and one other officer, 
who was outside the vehicles, received a minor wound in the 
leg.  The Ministry reported that a "Tiger" vehicle was also 
seen in the vicinity in this incident and again suggested 
that Russian forces may have perpetrated the attack. 
 
GOVERNMENT SEEKS INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE 
 
6. (C) Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Nalbandov 
summoned the DCM on January 20 to express concern about these 
recent incidents.  He also indicated that the government 
intends to summon representatives of all 16 European missions 
resident in Tbilisi to deliver a similar message and to 
request that the EUMM strengthen its mission in Georgia.  In 
particular, he suggested that the EUMM should increase the 
number of monitors, or arm them.  The Georgian Foreign 
Ministry also released a public statement protesting Russia's 
aggressive acts (ref B). 
 
COMMENT: IS THE "RESPITE" OVER? 
 
7. (C) Although even some Georgian officials expected the 
holidays would provide a certain rest from the violence (ref 
A), the shooting never really stopped, and now it seems the 
targeting has become deliberate and malicious again. 
Kakhniashvili's murder is particularly worrisome; a single 
shot from a possibly silenced weapon at a few hundred yards 
that hit the target directly in the heart is not the work f 
a drunken militiaman, but of a focused professional killer. 
Post has consistently urged the Georgian side to resist 
provocation and avoid escalating the violence, and the lack 
of response to most recent attacks, including on January 16, 
indicates the Georgian side has tried hard to follow that 
advice.  Georgian officers did return fire on January 18 and 
19, however; when under sustained attack, it is 
understandably difficult for police officers to refrain from 
defending themselves.  Georgia's appeal to the international 
community reflects the seriousness of these attacks and the 
government's recognition of the difficulty of withstanding 
them without outside help, especially in the face of a lack 
of international agreement on the continuation of both UNOMIG 
and OSCE missions, both of which face closure next month. 
End comment. 
TEFFT

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