09TBILISI148, RUSSIAN SOLDIER DESERTS, SEEKS ASYLUM IN GEORGIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI148 2009-01-28 13:06 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO6865
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0148/01 0281306
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 281306Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0846
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0173
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 2247
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 4770

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000148 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/28/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF MOPS KBTS RU GG
SUBJECT: RUSSIAN SOLDIER DESERTS, SEEKS ASYLUM IN GEORGIA 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary and comment.  On January 26 a Russian soldier 
based in the Akhalgori Valley inside South Ossetia deserted 
his post, crossed the administrative boundary at Odzisi, 
flagged down a Georgian Interior Ministry car, and requested 
asylum, based on his difficult living conditions.  The 
Ministry publicly announced the event January 27; a video of 
the soldier telling his story was made available on TV and 
the Internet; and he spoke with international news 
organizations.  Russian government officials have reportedly 
accused the Georgian government of forcibly detaining the 
soldier and demanded his return.  The Ministry has 
facilitated phone contact between the soldier and his family 
and offered to facilitate the family's travel to visit him in 
Georgia; it has also offered the EU Monitoring Mission a 
chance to meet with the soldier.  Post is still gathering 
information, but we have no reason to doubt the government's 
version of events, particularly given the many reports 
circulating about the difficult conditions facing Russian 
soldiers in South Ossetia.  The government seems to be 
developing a careful approach to the case.  End summary and 
comment. 
 
2. (C) Head of the Interior Ministry's Analytical Department 
Shota Utiashvili provided EmbOff with the following 
chronology.  On January 26 Aleksandr Glukhov apparently 
crossed the Ksani River on his own and flagged down a car 
near Odzisi, which happened to be an Interior Ministry 
vehicle.  (Post note: Odzisi is the location of the last 
Georgian checkpoint before the administrative boundary, so 
many, if not most, of the vehicles at that part of the road 
are Interior Ministry vehicles.  End note.)  He identified 
himself, complained about difficult living conditions at his 
post, including poor food and no opportunity to bathe for 
over a month, and sought permission from the Georgian 
president to stay in Georgia.  The Ministry publcly 
announced the event on January 27, provided video testimony 
to television stations, posted the video on its own website 
(www.police.ge/en), and made the soldier available to the 
press.  The Ministry is currently hosting Glukhov in 
Mtskheta.  Glukhov has spoken with his parents on the phone, 
and the Ministry has offered to facilitate his parents' 
travel to Georgia to see Glukhov. 
 
3. (C) Utiashvili said that Glukhov did use the word "asylum" 
in his request for protection.  He also expressed the 
opinion, however, that Glukhov probably wants to return to 
Russia; he just does not want to serve in the Russian Army 
any longer.  Noting that Glukhov is free to return to Russia 
whenever he wants, he thought Glukhov would stay in Georgia 
for a while and try to negotiate a return that would avoid 
negative consequences for his desertion. 
 
4. (C) The Interior Ministry made Glukhov available to meet 
publicly with representatives of the press and others on 
January 27 at McDonald's on Rustaveli Avenue in downtown 
Tbilisi.  In communications with Deputy Foreign Minister Giga 
Bokeria and Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze, however, post 
advised caution, suggesting indiscreet treatment of the case 
could cause difficulties for both Georgia and Glukhov.  Post 
also suggested that the government stay in close contact with 
the Europeans, who would likely track the case very 
Qthe Europeans, who would likely track the case very 
carefully.  Bokeria explained that the only way to counter 
likely Russian accusations of kidnapping was to present 
Glukhov himself to the press.  Vashadze acknowledged the need 
for caution, however, and informed the Ambassador of the 
efforts to establish contact between Glukhov and his family. 
The Interior Ministry has extended an invitation to the EU 
Monitoring Mission to meet with Glukhov in a more discreet 
setting and has reached out to the Swiss Embassy, which looks 
after Russia's interests in Georgia, about the case. 
 
COMMENT: A DELICATE SITUATION 
 
5. (C) Post has heard numerous stories from credible sources, 
including the EUMM, that Russian forces in South Ossetia do 
indeed live in difficult circumstances.  Russian soldiers in 
Perevi, for example, complained to the EUMM about not being 
paid for months.  The EUMM heard a story that Russian forces 
in Akhalgori approached the Georgian side about the 
possibility of bringing in supplies by helicopter over 
Georgian airspace, should the situation get truly desperate, 
because they were already having supply problems.  (Senior 
Russian officials later disputed this story.)  Although we 
cannot confirm the details of this apparent defection, we 
have no reason to doubt the Georgian version of events.  A 
 
TBILISI 00000148  002 OF 002 
 
 &#x
000A;real difficulty for the Georgians, however, is how to handle 
the situation carefully, so that Glukhov himself is protected 
and the Georgian government is not perceived as exploiting a 
personal tragedy for the sake of political expediency.  The 
initial impulse, to showcase Glukhov at McDonald's, was 
questionable, but by contacting the family and bringing the 
Europeans into the process, the government seems to be 
developing a more sophisticated approach. 
TEFFT

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