Day: October 1, 2006

Putin Heightens Georgia Tensions

It looks as though Moscow may be preparing to make a strong response to the arrest of its intelligence officers in Tbilisi. Putin has begun to use extremely unguarded language, accusing the Georgian government of “terrorism”, employing inverted Stalinist metaphors, and threatening unspecified measures.

This does not look good for the further outcome of the crisis.

At the same time, however, in a typical move, Putin has called for the withdrawal of Russian federal troops from Georgia to continue (gazeta.ru).

There is a BBC report to be found here.

Less is now being heard of the UN initiative pressed by Moscow a few days ago, mainly aimed at securing a condemnation of Georgia in favour of the Russian side.

The Reuters report includes an official Georgian response to Putin’s remarks:

Georgian parliamentarian Giga Bokeria, a close ally of President Mikhail Saakashvili, called Putin’s statement “an act of open aggression and hysteria”.

“Russia just cannot stand the fact that Georgia is an independent country,” he told Reuters.

International Efforts Underway to Defuse Russo-Georgian Tensions

Via Civil Georgia / 2006-10-01 15:04:10:

International efforts are underway to help defuse increasing tension between Russia and Georgia, after the latter arrested and charged four Russian officers with espionage.

On October 1, OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht said he is in contact with the Russian and Georgian leadership and even expressed readiness to travel to the region to mediate in solving the problem.

“I appeal to all concerned parties to abide by the principles of international law, to abstain from provocations, to establish direct dialogue and to find a quick solution. I will remain in contact with all the relevant parties and work towards this end,” the Chairman-in-Office said.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana phoned President Saakashvili late on September 30 and urged for caution “against the risk of further escalation,” Solana’s press office said on Sunday.

“High Representative Solana encouraged President Saakashvili to find an early solution to the dispute with Russia and expressed his support for efforts underway… He also confirmed his readiness to facilitate contacts between the sides.”

On September 29, President Saakashvili also talked via phone with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili hinted on September 29 that Georgia may extradite arrested Russian officers only in case of request by the Georgia’s western partners.

“They [the Russian authorities] have only one resource at their disposal: to convince our foreign friends to [recommend] us to show a good will and expel these people [spy suspects] out of the country,” Okruashvili said.

Meanwhile in Tbilisi, the Headquarters of the Russian Troops in Trans-Caucasus remains sealed off by the unarmed Georgian policemen. Tbilisi alleges that one more Russian officer, also suspected of espionage, is sheltering in the Headquarters.

Also on Sunday, the opposition Republican and Conservative parties announced about their plans to hold a protest rally outside the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi on October 4 in an effort “to show unity” among the political forces in Georgia, amid tensions with Russia. They have called all the political parties to put aside election campaigning ahead of the October 5 and to join the protest rally.

Reportedly only two diplomats and security guard remain in the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi, as rest of the staff and their family members have already left for Russia as part of “the partial evacuation” announced by Moscow after four officers were arrested.

Lenta.ru: GRVZ Siege Lifted

Lenta.ru quotes RIAN in a report that the siege of the GRVZ (Group of Russian Troops in Transcaucasia) headquarters building in Tbilisi has been lifted, and that only a few military police are now checking the documents of those who enter and leave the premises. The building had been ringed by Georgian interior ministry troops and military police since September 27, and the Georgian government had demanded the surrender of Russian GRU (military intelligence) serviceman Lt.-Col. Konstantin Pichugin, who was believed to be hiding inside.

RIAN has an English-language report here.