Georgia's War Picnic

Georgia's War Picnic
Author: Georgi Kalatozishvili, Tbilisi, exclusively to VK


Georgia continues intense discussion of the events in the Dagestan part of the Russian-Georgian border, where in a collision of Special Forces units with some "armed group" 14 people were killed.

A few days ago five young people disappeared from the village of Lapankuri of the Telavi region. According to their relatives, they went to the mountains for a picnic and did not return. As it turned out later, local residents met a detachment of armed "bearded" men wearing uniform at the entrance to the gorge of Lopota (one of the most difficult but also the most beautiful in the country), and were taken hostage. They were ordered to remain silent and follow the squad.

The next morning, Georgian border guards went to look for the missing. One of them met the same unit and was able to persuade the kidnappers to release the hostages, offering themselves instead. The militants agreed. The hostages returned to the village and told everyone what happened. The central government joined to solving this problem. Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili established a special anti-crisis headquarters and held a meeting with all the members of power ministries. The officer of MIA went to negotiate with the kidnappers. He told the militants to immediately lay down their arms and surrender. They flatly refused and took the flag-of-truce bearer hostage, releasing the border guard.

However, the officer was more cunning than the militants thought: he asked for the opportunity to talk with the leaders of the Ministry of Interior on the cell phone. Referring to the absence of a signal, he asked to let him go a little down the river Lopota to come to an area where the phone will work. Two gunmen went with him. But when the negotiator came down to an agreed place, there were snipers there. They "removed" one of the guards, and then former hostage managed to escape, and in the valley of Lopota large-scale military operation to neutralize the group started.

One of the members of Special Forces landed north of the gorge (not to give away the militants to Russia) was killed by a tripwire mine. Trying to take him away, two officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and medical officer of the Ministry of Defense were killed. At the same time, according to official information, 11 terrorists were killed and six escaped. The corpses were taken to the morgue of Telavi and Tbilisi. Later, the Ministry of Interior issued a footage captured on the battlefield: bearded men in camouflage lying on the ground, tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, night vision goggles and a large number of weapons.

Examination, usual in this case, began: fingerprinting and so on. Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Shota Khizanishvili said that "the militants are partly the citizens of the Russian Federation, the residents of the North Caucasus." But what about the other part? According to one theory, most of the terrorists were indeed North Caucasians (particularly Dagestani and Chechen), but the group also included Kistins from the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia. According to one of the former hostages, the kidnapper spoke to him in Georgian, like all Kistins. In addition, the day after the operation, stranger called to "Objective" on air speaking Georgian with strong Chechen accent and threatened dire punishments to Georgia "for the murder of young Kists."

Anyway, the Georgian authorities have demonstrated uncompromising against illegal armed formation, though the terrorists in negotiations ask one thing - to open a corridor to enter the North Caucasus for them. In this case, they promised to release the hostages (the officer) and never to go back to Georgia. But in Tbilisi the authorities have taken into account the huge risks associated with this possibility, because Moscow could accuse the Georgian authorities in “the infiltration of terrorists into its territory”, with all the ensuing consequences.

Thus, the best way out of the situation was the capture of militants, followed by extradition of Russian citizens to Russia. However, the militants refused to surrender and have left the authorities no choice but to use force. However, such a radical decision and even tragic victims seem to be less evil than another explosion in Georgian-Russian relations in the event of the violation of Dagestani section of the border by an armed group from Georgia.