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Special Operation and possible consequences for Georgia

By Leila Naroushvili
Georgia Online, 03 September '12

Special operation against the armed group of about 20 men lasted for three days; the group entered Georgia from bordering Dagestan. Despite the fact that the situation in Dagestan is very tense, Georgian society and law enforcement agencies didn't expect that militants would travel to Georgia.

The identity of militants is still not revealed, where did they come from and what was the reason of their "visit" to the neighboring country is still unknown.

According to one of the versions, law enforcements of Dagestan stated that the militants were part of Tsenturi armed group and traveled to Georgia to hide from law enforcements. But the Deputy Head of the Center for Public Relations of the Russian Federation Vadim Shabaev said that there was no armed group that came from Dagestan to Georgia; he thinks that the information spread by Georgian side is a provocation that has "no real grounding."

On the other hand, mujahedin leadership of Vilayat Dagestan confirmed that these militants were the mujahedins of the Caucasus Emirate Armed Forces and threatened Georgia to revenge for the death of his brothers- mujahedins.

The official representative of the Georgian government, the Head of National Security Council Giga Bokeria said on "Rustavi 2" TV channel that the armed group in Lopota gorge had captured five people from village of Lapankhuri in Telavi district. As a result of search of missing people, border guards of the Ministry of Interior of Georgia discovered an armed group; border guards convinced members of the group to free the hostages and to take them instead. Then, the Georgian Interior Ministry sent officers to negotiate with the group, who themselves replaced the previously detained border guards. They tried to convey the message that the Georgian authorities had offered to surrender peacefully. Militants refused and only after that special operation was conducted to rescue the officers and disarm the militants." He also said that The Russian Federation had been informed about the planned operation in Lopota gorge.

"Georgia has no diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation. Yesterday we made sure that our international partners had information about the events. We informed EU monitoring mission in Georgia, as well as all our strategic partners. We used all existing mechanisms between us and the Russian Federation. As it is known, embassy of Switzerland represents interests of Russia in Georgia and vice versa. We informed Russian Federation through our Swiss colleagues to avoid any misunderstandings and speculations. For exactly that reason all sides were informed about the special operation", said Bokeria.

According to generally accepted standards, in the fight with unlawful armed groups, law enforcements of any country offer militants to surrender to the representatives of the country they are in. In case of refusal militants must be destroyed. Georgian law enforcements offered members of the armed group to surrender, but they refused and carried armed resistance. Only after that the operation had started.

During the operation three members of Georgian Special Forces and eleven militants were killed, five employees of Georgian law enforcements were wounded, all hostages were freed.

According to Russian media and experts, situation in Dagestan gets worse. Military personnel and employees of other law enforcements are constantly transferred from different countries of North Caucasus to Dagestan. From Chechnya alone to Dagestan several groups of military personnel were transferred. Since March of this year large group of military forces traveled from military base in Khankala in several-kilometers long columns of armored vehicles and trucks with military personnel.

"We haven’t seen such large number of moving armored vehicles and soldiers since the beginning of 2000th" , says the resident of Gudermes region of Chechnya Sultan Magomaev, "Columns of vehicles moved non-stop and were spread in many kilometers. They used to come to Chechnya, but now they are moving to Dagestan direction." (Kavkazskii Uzel, March 19, 2012).

In July additional 800 employees of law enforcements were transferred from Chechnya, they will carry out their duty on control-barrage system posts. In total, 20 thousand militaries were transferred from Chechnya to Dagestan.

Apart from that, other parts of Russian armed forces with military equipment continue to come to Dagestan. But their aim is little different, they will take part in large scale military training "Caucasus 2012" in October this year. Training called "Cooperation 2012" will be held in September by CRRF CSTO (Collective Rapid Reaction Force of the Collective safety). Training "Cooperation 2012" includes three possible scenarios: Iranian, Georgian and Azerbaijani.

As the expert of Institute of CIS countries Mikhail Aleksandrov explains, Georgian scenario includes actions that may take places after Georgian parliamentary elections:

"It is possible that government will do large scale falsification of election results, this will lead to unrest and disorder inside the country and the subsequent forceful suppression of national rebellion. Russia may interfere to protect Georgian nation from violence, as the West did to help democratic forces in Libya." As the Russian expert says "all actions of training by CRRF CSTO in Armenia are aimed at working out measures to resist interest of the West in the region".

«Georgia Online» presents the opinion of Russian expert Pavel Felgenhauer about the special operation in Telavi region of Georgia.

Was this Special Forces unit sent into Georgia or an armed group that arrived in Georgia to wait until tension calm in Dagestan?

Since there is real civil war in Dagestan it is possible that military action and armed people cross the border, especially now that there is no snow and it’s easy to travel. This creates big danger for Georgia, at the same time there is no coordination between security ministries of Georgia and Russia for obvious reasons.

Your colleague Heydar Jemal did not exclude a new round of Russian-Georgian war, as there are all signs of developing such scenario …

Indeed, the threat is serious. There are serious military exercises, In the North Caucasus numerous tactical troops are on high alert, and are withdrawn in the field from their permanent bases. If you look at domestic situation in Moscow, and on number of external political reasons, the possibility of war becomes quite real…

Basically, all has been set, and we do not know weather Russian President makes this decision or not. But next few weeks are very dangerous, troops are implementing a number of exercises to raise combat readiness. Maybe today Kremlin has already made a political decision, I cannot say. The dangerous period will last for short time, about a month and a half, moreover soon it will be necessary to mobilize recruits and train them, and combat capability will decrease dramatically. In addition, winter is coming, time is wasted and possible military operation moves to the next year.

Today, the window of opportunity is linked to the political situation in Russia. Besides geopolitical and energy interests, and in general, the Kremlin's desire to establish control over the Caucasus, the very important factor is domestic political situation in Russia. Apparently Putin views this situation in combination - there is a conspiracy against Russia, it is surrounded by enemies and the "fifth column" is based in Moscow, it is willing to harm or even strangle his power. Therefore, he needs to act quickly, the short victorious war, in which Putin is confident, can strengthen his regime and split the opposition. Nationalists will be for, westerners - against, and they will be presented as western agents. This is the possible benefits of the South Caucasus problem solutions. So we can not exclude worsening of the situation.

Summer is over – Is not the Supreme Commander of Russia late with the war?

This time, the timeframe for military action has shifted a little bit compared with 2008, as Russia already has a military base in South Caucasus, in the Tskhinvali region - there are stocks of heavy equipment and amunitions, all that is needed for military operations. Therefore, there is no strict dependence on in somewhat bottleneck - the Roki tunnel. In fact, you can start a little later, but you can not delay endlessly, it is impossible. Combat effectiveness can be maintained for a limited time, well, winter is at our doorstep. So, Putin must decide - act now or postpone it for the future.
Objectively, the war is unlikely to be directly related to the episode of destruction of armed group by the Georgian security forces, especially the place where it happened, can not be the place for invading Georgia.

There was information somewhere that Russian army can choose short root from Dagestan to Georgia, then to Armenia.

Probably, the one who wrote it, was very poor in geography.

What does Russian military say about the special operation?

They said that they have not participated in this operation: we do not know, this is not our job - so far, these are their comments.

There is a range of opinions in Georgia: according to some, it was not necessary to destroy the militants and government should have given them the opportunity to leave, while others say that government arraigned all these for raising the ratings of Saakashvili, and there were no militants. What do you think?

Perhaps, all that was very unexpected. Details are not yet entirely clear, but judging from the statement of Bokeria, special forces really replaced the civilian hostages and its doubtful that they expected to be killed. Most likely, they counted on negotiations, and from Moscow It is difficult for me to understand the reasons of starting crossfire.

A kind of head of Mujahideens Vilayat Dagestan threatened Georgia to take revenge for killing their brothers. Can the relationship between Georgia and Dagestan be damaged?

- It is not excluded. Of course, soon the passes will be closed for a long time, and it will become difficult to get from Dagestan to Georgia with weapons. Though they are enemies of Russia, but not friends of Georgia. Objectively, this incident showed that Georgia and Russia should be allies in the confrontation with Salafist Islamists. But I do not think that after the raid, relations between Russia and Georgia will improve.

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