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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI674 2009-04-06 15:20 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #0674/01 0961520
O 061520Z APR 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000674 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/03/2019 
     B. TBILISI 484 
     C. GENEVA 183 
     D. TBILISI 638 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) Summary and comment.  In a recent trip to Moscow, EU 
Monitoring Mission (EUMM) representatives heard that Russia 
and South Ossetia have taken steps toward establishing an 
Incident Prevention Mechanism (Abkhazia still awaits a new UN 
mandate).  According to the EUMM, Russia expressed interest 
in another Geneva meeting in late May, which is better than 
the current plan of June, but still late.  The EUMM refuted 
further Russian and South Ossetian allegations of a Georgian 
military buildup.  Although the Russian military finally 
provided local contacts to EUMM, it showed little interest in 
responding to other EUMM concerns, and in preparation for 
Georgian opposition-led protests on April 9 in Tbilisi, it 
reported that Russian forces in Akhalgori will be doubled in 
strength.  EUMM determined that an armored vehicle could have 
prevented the fatality that occurred in the March 29 IED 
attack, and the Interior Ministry is now using COBRAs more 
widely; EUMM monitors themselves were shot at on March 26 in 
Ditsi.  Although the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs 
requested that EUMM staff monitor the April 9 protests, 
Brussels decided against it, so only a liaison officer will 
observe developments from inside the Ministry; EUMM will send 
extra patrols to the boundaries that day.  Steps by Russia 
and, to a lesser extent, South Ossetia toward cooperation are 
welcome, but the real test will be April 9, when many fear 
provocations near the boundaries.  We will have to pay close 
attention to the buildup of Russian forces in the Akhalgori 
Valley, which is the portion of South Ossetia nearest 
Tbilisi.  End summary and comment. 
2. (C) At the weekly EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) briefing 
for diplomats on April 2, Deputy Head of Mission Gilles 
Janvier and his staff offered an update of the situation on 
the ground, and Political Advisor Rosaria Puglisi offered a 
readout of the trip she, Head of Mission Hansjoerg Haber, and 
EU Special Representative Pierre Morel recently made to 
Moscow (ref A).  Janvier reported that the EUMM has 
established more regular contact with local Russian 
commanders, which EUMM has been seeking in vain for several 
months.  Puglisi reported that the Russians gave positive 
signals on the implementation of the Incident Prevention 
Mechanism negotiated at the February round of the Geneva 
talks (refs B, C).  Not only did the Russians name two 
liaison officers as Russia's representatives to the Mechanism 
(although they did not yet have phone numbers), but the South 
Ossetians did so as well.  The Russians indicated they hoped 
to hold an initial session of the mechanism by April 15. 
Puglisi was planning on meeting with Georgian Deputy Foreign 
Minister Giga Bokeria in the near future to discuss details; 
the Georgians have not yet agreed to some proposed 
arrangements, including the South Ossetian de facto 
preference to hold the session in so-called "no-man's land" 
on the administrative boundary in Ergneti.  Two other 
unresolved issues are the establishment of an agenda and a 
chair for the sessions.  (On April 6, Puglisi gave PolOff an 
update: Morel tried to organize an initial, "technical" 
meeting for April 8, but the South Ossetians refused, saying 
they want to monitor the results of the April 9 protests 
Qthey want to monitor the results of the April 9 protests 
first.  She did not expect any further developments until 
after the protests.) 
3. (C) Puglisi reported that the Russians expressed openness 
to another round of Geneva talks, although no earlier than 
the second half of May, after the UN Secretary General issues 
his report on Georgia on May 15.  This would be earlier than 
the June timeframe mentioned at the February Geneva talks, 
and before the UN and OSCE mandates both expire in mid-June, 
but not as early as the co-chairs (and the U.S.) were hoping. 
 The Russian interlocutors told Haber and Morel that the 
Incident Prevention Mechanism should be in place before the 
next round is held. 
4. (C) In response to a South Ossetian allegation of a 
buildup of Georgian special forces in Dirbi (southwest of 
Tskhinvali, just outside the administrative boundary), 
Janvier reported that the EUMM dispatched a patrol to the 
area on March 31 and found no evidence of unusual activity. 
It did find two unamed COBRA light armored vehicles in 
nearby Gogeti, but these were well within the limits agreed 
to in the EUMM's MOU with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. 
(See additional discussion of COBRAs in paragraph 8.) 
Puglisi reported that in Moscow, Haber and Morel both pushed 
TBILISI 00000674  002 OF 003 
back hard on Russian allegations of a Georgian military 
buildup along the administrative boundary li
nes (ABLs) and of 
inflammatory statements by Georgian officials.  Puglisi 
explained that the Russians seem to have a different 
understanding of the "adjacent areas" than the EUMM. 
According to the EUMM, in the areas closest to the ABL -- 
i.e., between the first and second rows of Russian 
checkpoints established after the August war -- only Georgian 
police are present, no military.  In the next zone, which 
Puglisi described with a new term, the "neighboring area," 
Georgian military forces are present, but in restricted 
numbers.  Then, in the rest of Georgian-controlled territory, 
the Georgian military is unrestricted.  Such bases as Senaki 
fall into this third category, and Puglisi suggested that 
Russian allegations of a "buildup" may count such areas, 
which in the EUMM's determination are too far from the ABL to 
give Georgia an offensive capability against the territories. 
 According to Puglisi, the Russians also criticized the 
EUMM's MOU with the Georgian MOD, saying it "did not conform 
to Russian military requirements" and expressed concern that 
"the Georgians could withdraw from the MOU at any time." 
5. (C) Janvier also reported that local Russian commanders 
had informed him that Russian troops will be doubled in 
strength in the Akhalgori Valley in preparation for April 9, 
when the Russians apparently perceive an increased risk for 
provocation.  Replacement troops will be sent into the area, 
but the current troops that would normally be rotated out 
will remain; the commanders called these "defensive, not 
offensive" forces.  They did not say what the total numbers 
would be.  Janvier noted that EUMM monitors had also received 
reports from Georgian Interior Ministry forces of large 
numbers of military equipment moving from Tskhinvali toward 
Akhalgori on March 30: 25 Ural trucks, 1 T-72 tank, and 4 
BMP-2 armored personnel carriers.  (Note: The OSCE received 
similar reports from Georgian police on March 31 and April 1 
that may refer to the same movements.  On April 1 the OSCE 
also received reports of recent movements of large numbers of 
vehicles inside South Ossetia to the southwest of Tskhinvali, 
in the Dzvileti-Bagiani-Gobozani area (north of Gogeti) End 
6. (C) During the talks in Moscow, Haber raised some specific 
concerns with Major General Proshkin, Chairman of the CIS 
Military Department of the Ministry of Defense.  He proposed 
identifying an EUMM staffer as a liaison officer with the 
Russian military, who could visit Russian counterparts on a 
regular, perhaps weekly basis; Proshkin did not respond. 
Haber asked when Russian forces would be leaving Perevi. 
(Note: Haber has discussed this topic on several occasions 
with Russian Ambassador to the EU Chizhov, who has 
acknowledged that Perevi is outside South Ossetia; Haber has 
agreed to refrain from repeating public calls for the 
Russians to withdraw, so that the Russians can do so quietly, 
hoping to minimize embarrassment.  Although the EUMM has 
refrained from public comment on Perevi in recent months, 
Russia has not withdrawn, and the EUMM seems to be losing its 
patience. End Note.).  Proshkin answered that Perevi holds 
"strategic importance," and furthermore that Russian forces 
would have left, if only Georgian forces were not present in 
the vicinity in "massive numbers."  Haber also asked about 
Qthe vicinity in "massive numbers."  Haber also asked about 
Russian helicopter flights along the ABLs.  Without admitting 
that the flights crossed into undisputed Georgian airspace 
(both the EUMM and OSCE determined they did), Proshkin 
acknowledged the flights, explaining them as necessary to 
monitor the Georgian "military presence." 
7. (C) A member of Janvier's staff reported that on March 26, 
an EUMM patrol was sent to investigate reports of shooting in 
the area of Ditsi, just outside the administrative boundary 
east of Tskhinvali.  Upon arrival, the patrol members heard 
three bursts of fire pass above their heads.  No one else was 
in the vicinity, so the patrol determined that the shots were 
aimed at them, most likely intended as a warning, and 
departed the area. 
8. (C) The staff member also provided an update on the 
investigation of the March 29 IED attack (ref D).  He 
described the road where the attack occurred, which leads up 
a hill to a Georgian Interior Ministry checkpoint, as not a 
public road, so that a civilian vehicle would be unlikely to 
use it -- although an EUMM or OSCE monitor vehicle might. 
Showing a sketch of the road and the placement of the IEDs, 
he showed how they were clearly designed to function 
together, first to set off an initial explosion, then to 
target responders.  EUMM and Norwegian People's Aid (a 
demining NGO) both determined that both IEDs that went off 
used MON-50 (Claymore-type) anti-personnel mines.  Showing a 
TBILISI 00000674  003 OF 003 
photograph of the pickup truck damaged in the first 
explosion, he demonstrated how the mine's shrapnel tore holes 
in the unarmored vehicle -- including in the spot where one 
police officer was fatally wounded.  EUMM determined that, if 
the vehicle had been armored, no one would have died.  In 
response to this incident, the Interior Ministry has begun 
using COBRA vehicles more widely, including on actual 
patrols.  Janvier acknowledged that, although the EUMM has 
argued in the past that the COBRAs were unnecessary because 
none of the previous 11 fatalities could have been prevented 
by armored vehicles, it could no longer make such an argument. 
9. (C) Although the Interior Ministry had asked the EUMM to 
help monitor the April 9 protests, and the EUMM was planning 
on sending four teams, Janvier announced that Brussels 
decided that monitoring internal political developments was 
outside the mission's mandate, so the EUMM would not send 
monitors to the protests themselves.  The EUMM has a regular 
liaison officer at the Interior Ministry, and he will be 
present in the Ministry on April 9 to observe developments. 
(Note: The Ministry has invited other diplomatic 
representatives to be present as well; PolChief will 
represent Post. End Note.)  EUMM does plan to send extra 
patrols out to the boundaries on April 9, because many fear 
that the Georgian Interior Ministry will draw police away 
from the de facto "boundaries" to monitor the protests, and 
forces to the north may try to take advantage of the 
resulting vacuum. 
10. (C) Russia and South Ossetia's moderate steps toward 
cooperation are encouraging, but they represent little more 
than gestures until the Mechanism is actually up and running. 
 Furthermore, with South Ossetia indicating it will not 
participate until after April 9, and Russia building up its 
forces in preparation for April 9, it is clear that we must 
get past a major hurdle before we can make any real progress. 
 The decision in Brussels not to monitor the protests is 
isappointing, because the monitors could have provided a 
helpful international deterrent to excess by all sides, but 
the EUMM's extra efforts along the de facto "boundaries" will 
hopefully have some deterrent effect there. 


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