09TBILISI1427, GEORGIA: ADDITIONAL PROVOCATIONS HEIGHTEN TENSION

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1427 2009-08-03 14:47 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO3433
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1427/01 2151447
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 031447Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1985
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0267
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001427 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/03/2019 
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS RS GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: ADDITIONAL PROVOCATIONS HEIGHTEN TENSION 
 
REF: TBILISI 1409 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT FOR REASONS 1.4 (b) AND (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary and comment.  On August 2 Russian Border 
Guards set up poles in the village of Kveshi, 200 meters 
outside of the South Ossetian administrative boundary, as an 
apparent first step to establish a checkpoint; on August 3, 
the Russians and the poles were gone.  On August 1 South 
Ossetian de facto officials accused Georgian forces of 
launching an attack on Eredvi, east of Tskhinvali, and the 
Russian Defense Ministry warned that additional "attacks" 
could provoke a Russian military response; the EUMM was 
unable to confirm that any incident occurred, and 
working-level Russian forces told Georgian counterparts the 
Ministry's statement was the result of a "miscommunication." 
Also on August 1, South Ossetian de facto "president" Kokoity 
repeated statements he made shortly after the war that 
ultimately South Ossetia could unite with Russia.  Coming so 
soon before the war's anniersary on August 7, and following 
Russia's July 31 failure to appear as promised at a Joint 
Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism meeting, all three 
episodes are disturbingly provocative and chillingly echo the 
runup to the war in August 2008.  End summary and comment. 
 
RUSSIAN FORCES ENTER VILLAGE IN GORI DISTRICT 
 
2. (C) On August 2, EUMM monitors observed Russian border 
guards in Kveshi village in Gori district, 200 meters outside 
of the boundary with South Ossetia (based on the EUMM's GPS 
measurements), seemingly defining an area in which to set up 
a Russian checkpoint.  The Russian border guards had set up 
poles, 80 centimeters high, in the middle of a street in the 
village.  This spot, if established as a checkpoint, would 
not only have blocked traffic, but would have also prevented 
some elements of the local population from reaching their 
land plots.  When EUMM monitors approached, armed Russian 
guards told the monitors in an aggressive manner (in the 
EUMM's opinion) that this was their spot.  On August 3, 
Georgian news items appeared alleging that Russian forces had 
taken steps to redefine the boundary and take control of 
undisputed Georgian territory.  That same morning, EUMM 
monitors returned to the village and discovered that both the 
Russians and the poles were gone.  No reason has been given 
for their departure.  Local Georgian press also reported that 
the Russians have opened a stationary checkpoint near the 
village of Artsevi, which is just across the administrative 
boundary line from Kveshi, but this cannot be confirmed. 
 
AUGUST 1 ATTACK? 
 
3. (SBU) The morning of August 1, in a statement published on 
the Internet, South Ossetian de facto officials alleged that 
Georgian forces had launched a mortar attack in the vicinity 
of Eredvi, east of Tskhinvali.  The Russian Ministry of 
Defense subsequently released a press release noting this 
"attack" and others from July 29 and warning that Russian 
military forces could answer any additional such attacks with 
all available means.  The EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) 
dispatched monitors to the area, who were unable to verify 
the allegations because they were unable to cross the South 
Ossetian administrative boundary.  They did confirm with 
local Georgian police officers that three explosions had 
occurred that morning, but the officers characterized them as 
grenade-like explosions akin to training activities, which 
have been carried out in the same area of South Ossetia in 
Qhave been carried out in the same area of South Ossetia in 
the past.  The EUMM monitors also observed that the Georgian 
forces at local checkpoints were not in a heightened state of 
alert and did not seem overly concerned (some were not 
wearing their helmets, and some were even asleep).  South 
Ossetian de facto officials eventually contacted the EUMM 
directly, through the recently established "hotline," or 
Joint Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (JIPRM) 
contact list, and conveyed their concerns.  They explained 
that they could not produce any physical evidence of the 
attack, because the shells had landed in a wooded area that 
was difficult to access. 
 
4. (SBU) Director of the Analytical Department of the 
Ministry of Internal Affairs (MoIA) Shota Utiashvili told 
EmbOff that local Russian counterparts told MoIA officials 
that the Russian Defense Ministry statement appeared before 
they themselves had reported on the events.  Later that 
evening, they told their Georgian counterparts that the 
statement was in fact based on "miscommunication" among 
Russian parties. 
 
5. (SBU) The evening of August 1, EUMM issued a statement 
indicating it could find no evidence to support the 
allegations of the attack, although it could not make a 
 
TBILISI 00001427  002 OF 002 
 
 
complete assessment without access to South Ossetia.  It also 
called on all sides "to exercise
 extreme restraint in words 
and actions at this particularly time" (i.e., in the approach 
to the anniversary of the war). 
 
"ONE DAY, WE WILL BE PART OF RUSSIA" 
 
6. (SBU) In an interview with Reuters on August 1, Kokoity 
suggested that his ultimate goal may be to unite South 
Ossetia with Russia.  Kokoity was quoted as saying, "We will 
build our own state, which will be in alliance with 
Russia...and I am not excluding that one day, we will be part 
of Russia.  The people of South Ossetia want to be united 
with Russia."  He went on to state that it was Russia which 
was not ready for unification, implying that it is not South 
Ossetia who is blocking such a move.  Kokoity made a similar 
statement in Sochi just one month after the war.  On 
September 11, 2008, he was quoted as telling a group of 
journalists and academics that "We are looking forward to 
joining North Ossetia and the Russian Federation."  The 
Kremlin quickly denied this claim at the time, saying South 
Ossetia wanted to remain independent, and Kokoity quickly 
backtracked, saying his words had been misunderstood and that 
he was merely expressing the desire of many South Ossetians. 
 
COMMENT: BAD TIMING, AT THE VERY LEAST 
 
7. (C) It is possible (although from our vantage point it 
strains credulity) to explain Russian actions not as a 
deliberate effort to raise the tension the weekend before the 
anniversary of the war, but as the result of poor 
coordination among Russian agencies and proxies.  The Russian 
Border Guards' efforts to establish a new checkpoint, along a 
boundary which admittedly is not easy to determine in many 
places, may have been their effort to continue with their new 
mandate of protecting what they consider the "border."  The 
surprisingly belligerent statement by the Defense Ministry 
may have been the result of an overly zealous defense 
establihment that did not consult with their colleagues in 
the MFA.  Kokoity's latest allusion to the possibility of 
Russia's annexation of South Ossetia may simply exhibit a 
lack of self-control (as he seems to have shown back in 
September as well) -- it remains to be seen how Moscow will 
react to his latest confession.  Finally, the Russians' 
no-show at the July 31 meeting of the Joint Incident 
Prevention and Response Mechanism meeting (reftel), which 
even the South Ossetians attended, could have been the result 
of local incompetence, rather than a deliberate rejection of 
the process. 
 
8. (C) Nevertheless, in keeping with the spirit of the 
Defense Ministry's own statement, the timing of such a string 
of examples of poor judgment -- if that is what behind these 
actions -- could not be worse.  As that statement notes, the 
runup to the war itself was eerily similar.  In the first 
week of August 2008, the two sides made a series of heated 
allegations about attacks mounted by the other side.  Also, 
despite efforts to get in contact with counterparts and 
defuse tensions, on several occasions Russian officials 
declined to show for scheduled meetings, with no explanation. 
 This time around, the Georgians have showed remarkable 
restraint in response.  Whether the Russian actions are 
simply a confluence of unfortunate circumstances or something 
more sinister, however, the possibility remains that one of 
these times, an event could spin out of control. 
TEFFT 
QTEFFT

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