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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI450 2009-03-06 14:37 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #0450/01 0651437
O 061437Z MAR 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000450 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/06/2019 
     B. MOSCOW 488 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) Summary and comment.  International monitors continue 
to report to us their observations of significant military 
assets and movements inside the Abkhaz and South Ossetian 
administrative boundaries, including tanks, artillery, and 
personnel.  The assets observed exceed the limits the 
Georgians have voluntarily and unilaterally placed upon 
themselves on the south side of the boundaries.  Although 
UNOMIG determined that recent reports of Russian border 
guards near the Abkhaz boundary were unfounded, Russian 
military forces remain in place, and none of the monitoring 
organizations has sufficient access to determine the full 
strength of Russian, Abkhaz or South Ossetian forces near the 
boundaries.  Russian allegations of a significant buildup on 
the Georgian side -- and a resulting increase in tension -- 
have not only been refuted by the monitoring organizations, 
but seem designed to deflect attention from the military 
activities on the northern side of the boundaries.  Such 
misdirection could be a dangerous effort to lay the 
groundwork for blaming Georgia for any provocations or 
escalation.  End summary and comment. 
2. (C) In a February 26 summary of "Heavy Armament in the 
Zone of Conflict" (which excluded the Kodori Valley), UNOMIG 
reported the following totals of equipment confirmed to be 
held by the various sides in areas adjacent to the 
administrative boundary.  (Note: These numbers reflect 
confirmed observations, not exhaustive totals.  UNOMIG has 
been restricted in its freedom of movement on the Abkhaz side 
of the boundary in recent months, but not restricted at all 
on the Georgian-controlled side; it is therefore likely that 
the figures given for the Russian/Abkhaz side are 
underestimates, and those given for the Georgian-controlled 
side are closer to the actual totals.  Post is not aware that 
this summary has been reported to UN headquarters through 
official channels.  End note.) 
-- Russian Federation Forces: 10 T-72 tanks, 6 2S3 152mm 
self-propelled artillery pieces (howitzers), 1 lightly 
armored multi-purpose vehicle (MT-LB), and 32 armored 
personnel carriers (BTRs).  Three of the tanks may have since 
moved out (see paragraph 5). 
-- Abkhaz forces: 7 T-55 tanks, 3 ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft 
cannon, 3 MT-LBs, and 3 BTRs. 
-- Georgian Interior Ministry forces: 22 COBRA Joint Light 
Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs), 2 JLTVs with machine guns, 2 
armored ambulance JLTVs. 
3. (C) One of the provisions of the Georgian government's 
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the EU Monitoring 
Mission (EUMM) is a ban on artillery bigger than 120mm in 
caliber within 15 kilometers of the Abkhaz administrative 
boundary; this provision includes al tanks.  None of the 17 
tanks and 6 howitzers counted by UNOMIG on the Russian/Abkhaz 
side of the boundary would therefore be allowed under the 
4. (C) The Russians have been harshly critical of the COBRAs 
used by the Georgian side to move Interior Ministry forces 
around the area adjacent to the boundary, calling them 
inherently destabilizing; although UNOMIG has observed only 
two vehicles armed with a machine gun, any of them could 
potentially be armed with one.  International monitors told 
us that even when armed with a machine gun, it was impossible 
to call these "offensive" military equipment.  The Georgians 
Qto call these "offensive" military equipment.  The Georgians 
counter that 11 individuals have been killed since the August 
war, many of them by sniper fire, and their personnel 
therefore need the protection.  Although the EUMM has 
questioned the need for the COBRAs, they are allowed under 
the MOU, and the EUMM itself uses very similar vehicles for 
its own personnel.  (The British Ambassador recently 
commented in a western Ambassadors' meeting that it was 
pretty hard to criticize the Georgian COBRA deployments when 
European nations will not send their own monitors up to the 
boundary areas unless they are in such armored vehicles.) 
Furthermore, compared to the 26 COBRAs, UNOMIG has counted 32 
BTRs on the Russian/Abkhaz side, which can transport more 
personnel and support more lethal weaponry.  The MOU allows 
no more than 5 armored vehicles with a gun between 60mm and 
120mm in caliber. 
5. (C) On February 25, UNOMIG monitors determined that 
TBILISI 00000450  002.2 OF 003 
reports from the press that Russia had introduced 180 border 
guards to the area along the administrative boundary were 
incorrect.  Russian forces remain a prominent presence in the 
conflict zone, however; the press stories may have bee a 
corruption of a series of what looked to UNOMIG like troop 
rotations.  On February 28, UNOMI
G monitors compiled 
information about a series of movements in the previous days 
involving 25 BTRs, 39 trucks and 3 tanks moving north and 20 
BTRs and 25 trucks moving south.  On February 13, Abkhaz de 
facto presidential representative in Gali Ruslan Kishmaria 
told visiting U.S. officials that Abkhaz forces had taken 
control along the boundary, and Russian forces had backed 
away but remained in positions somewhat behind the Abkhaz. 
With limited access, however, it remains difficult for UNOMIG 
to determine the total number of Russian and Abkhaz forces 
arrayed in Abkhazia, or their position, with any precision. 
6. (C) Russia has alleged that Georgia has deployed 2,000 
forces along the areas adjacent to both Abkhazia and South 
Ossetia.  After EUMM Head of Mission Hansjoerg Haber 
forcefully rejected these allegations when they were made in 
Geneva on February 17, the EUMM, as well as UNOMIG, also 
conducted a series of unannounced inspections of the Georgian 
side of the boundaries the week of Feb. 17 to doublecheck. 
Both organizations determined that the allegations were 
unfounded (ref A). 
7. (C) The EUMM certification of Georgia's compliance with 
its MOU applied to the area outside South Ossetia as well. 
The OSCE also confirmed in a summary report for the period 
February 16 - March 1 that it had not observed any visible 
presence of Georgian armed forces in areas adjacent to South 
Ossetia.  No international monitoring organization has 
regular access to South Ossetia, so information about 
military movements inside the administrative boundary is 
extremely limited and based primarily on what can be observed 
from the Georgian-controlled side of the boundary.  Even 
these limited observations indicate, however, that there is a 
significant military presence within a short distance of the 
boundary.  In the same summary report, the OSCE noted a large 
Russian armed forces encampment northwest of Tskhinvali and 
supplementary posts to the east of the city. 
8. (C) On February 20, OSCE monitors observed what it 
eventually determined to be a battery of 5 self-propelled 
howitzers in the area of Dvani, just inside the 
administrative boundary, southwest of Tskhinvali.  It also 
observed a Fire Direction Center vehicle (which enables 
targeting), communications equipment, and ammunition.  The 
OSCE asked Colonel Tarasov, the Russian commander of South 
Ossetia, about the equipment on February 20; he claimed the 
equipment was Ossetian, but he seemed to the OSCE to be 
flustered by the question.  By February 25 monitors 
determined the artillery was gone from that location, 
although the supporting equipment remained, which suggested 
to the OSCE that there might be an interest in being able to 
restore the battery on short notice.  On March 2 the OSCE 
reported four of the artillery pieces were back in the same 
location.  Although unable to establish the nature of the 
artillery with 100% accuracy, OSCE believes them to be either 
140mm 2S4s or 152mmm 2S5s (with a slight possibility of 
2SMs), both of which would exceed the limits of Georgia's MOU. 
Q2SMs), both of which would exceed the limits of Georgia's MOU. 
9. (C) EUMM and OSCE monitors regularly observe tanks, BTRs, 
and armored infantry fighting vehicles (BMPs) just inside the 
administrative boundary.  In some recent examples, OSCE 
monitors observed three BMPs at a Russian/Ossetian position 
south of Orchosani on March 1.  This position is within a few 
hundred meters of the administrative boundary at the point 
where the boundary itself is within a few hundred meters of 
the main east-west highway, and the position is clearly 
visible from the highway itself.  OSCE monitors also observed 
four Russian battle tanks moving between Tbeti (just inside 
the administrative boundary, west of Tskhinvali) and 
Tamarasheni on February 24.  On February 28, the OSCE 
observed Georgian Interior Ministry forces fortifying their 
observation post in Odzisi, and on March 5 the EUMM reported 
the Georgian forces moved the post 100 meters closer to the 
joint Russian/Ossetian post to the north.  The Georgians 
explained to the OSCE the change was in response to a buildup 
of Russian forces in the area of Akhmaji in the Akhalgori 
Valley, just inside the administrative boundary and across a 
narrow river from Odzisi.  The Georgians reported seeing 
multiple rocket launchers, mortars, anti-aircraft weapons, 
and artillery deployed in recent days and 12 tanks moving 
north of Odzisi.  OSCE monitors themselves observed 5 BMPs, 
all armed with a 30mm automatic gun, and one T-72 tank, at 
the Russian position north of Akhmaji.  At the joint 
TBILISI 00000450  003 OF 003 
Russian/Ossetian position north of Odzisi, the monitors 
observed three BMPs and one T-72. 
COMMENT: Don't Throw Stones at Glass Houses 
10. (C) Despite the monitoring organizations' repeated 
findings of no military buildup by Georgia, Russia has 
repeated such allegations since February meetings in Geneva 
(ref B).  It has even accused Georgia of having specific 
elements -- tanks and rocket launchers -- that Georgia does 
not have near the boundaries, but Russia does.  The 
allegations could be perceived as an effort both to direct 
the international community's attention away from Russia's 
own activities north of the boundaries and to keep open the 
possibility of blaming provocations or escalations on the 
Georgians.  Combined with Russian unwillingness to schedule 
another round of Geneva talks before June, as well as with 
the possibly expiry of the OSCE and UNOMIG mandates in June, 
the overall effort could be laying the groundwork for Russia 
to keep its options open in the occupied territories this 
spring -- including the military option.  In our effort to 
encourage Georgia's transparency and restraint, we need to 
continue to push for full transparency and restraint 
throughout the entire territory of Georgia.  Even though 
international monitors have limited access to Abkhazia and no 
access to South Ossetia (a reminder of the importance of 
renewing the monitors' mandates), they have still been able 
to provide solid evidence refuting Russia's claims.  In our 
view, allowing those claims to go unchallenged could lead 
Russia to believe it has available a pretext for renewed 
military action. 


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