Russia and Georgia: cooperation of special services
Alexander Maleyev, political science (Moscow). Exclusively to Vestnik Kavkaza
Vladimir Putin told Russia Today that the first step toward restoration of the visa-free regime between Moscow and Tbilisi should be cooperation “in the sphere of law-enforcement agencies and special services.” Putin reminded that in previous years there were situations when terrorists came from the Georgian territory to Russia.
The Lopota Gorge events
Accusation of Georgia of supporting the North Caucasus terrorist started in the late 1990s. The discussions became intensive after the events in the Lopota Gorge near the village of Lapankuri in the north-east of Georgia (near the Russian-Georgian border). In late August 2012, according to official Tbilisi, its special services destroyed a group of 11 Chechen militants who came to Georgia from Dagestan.
However, found out circumstances made this point of view doubtful. Georgian ombudsman Ucha Nanuashvili, referring to a private source and relatives of the killed young people from Pankisi, raised a question on responsibility of top officials of the Interior Ministry.
The accusations were confirmed by Chechen separatists. In early June the mass media published the report of the committee of “the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria” on investigation of the events in the Lopota Gorge. The authors interviewed participants of the events and detected that the group “was formed, supported, financed, and provided with military equipment under the control of the special services from the territory of Georgia.”
The evidence of Georgia’s support of the Islamist militant groups in the North Caucasus was the book by Islam Saydayev “Remove the Witness.”
For a few years, Saydayev was deputy head of the information center of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in Georgia and could observe life of the Chechens abroad from the inside. He describes in detail how these people were used by Georgian and Western intelligence agencies as a channel of support for armed groups opposing the Russian army in Chechnya.
Pragmatic goals, cynical methods
The goals of cooperation between Georgia and the North Caucasus militants were pragmatic. Georgians wanted to use Chechens in settlement of the Abkhazian problem for the support in the war against Russia. Georgians worked through them with the Caucasian diasporas which supported the idea of separation of the Caucasus from Russia, promoted the Georgian point of view in the countries of the Middle East and in Turkey. Militant commanders were also involved into direct fights. That’s how Ruslan Gelayev was involved into the military conflict in the Kodori Gorge in 2001.
Of course “Remove the Witness” is not a political scientific research, but a private source. Sometimes the author is subjective or exaggerates his role in the described events. For example, he thinks that it was his letter to Bzhezinski that made Eduard Shevardnadze to stop the operation in the Kodori Gorge. However, the facts presented in the book deserve close attention.
The problems of the regional security especially ahead of the Sochi Olympic Games is one of point of contact between Russia and Georgia; and a constructive dialogue is possible even now. Honest investigation of the mentioned events can contribute to normalization of the bilateral relations.