Georgian security services preparing for the Olympics in Sochi

 

Georgi Kalatozishvili, Tbilisi, exclusively to VK

 

Georgia is ready to help Russia in making the Olympic Games secure. Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili stated this at his last big press conference. The announcement came shortly after vociferous threats by Doku Umarov to arrange terrorist attacks during the Olympics.

 

Not surprisingly, at a press conference Ivanishvili mentioned an interview given by Vladimir Putin, broadcast by Russia Today, as an example of the theoretical possibility of a peaceful resolution of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, "The Russian President mentioned the Georgians, Abkhazians and Ossetians as "peoples living on the same territory. He hinted what we should do to find common ground with our brothers, and I understand the hint."

Then Putin also spoke about the desirability of "closer cooperation between Russian and Georgian special services" as a condition of facilitating the visa regime for Georgian citizens wishing to visit Russia.

In Georgia, this was interpreted as meaning that Moscow is setting Tbilisi specific conditions for the further settlement of bilateral relations: close security cooperation, including the critical direction of the North Caucasus; and the Olympic Games in Sochi, like the issue of facilitating the visa regime, are only a "hook" for carrying out strategic tasks.

The statements by Ivanishvili indicate that he has properly understood the "message" and is ready to take note of it.

Not wishing to represent this conclusion as unfounded speculation, let us consider the situation in a broader context. Mikheil Saakashvili has repeatedly recalled his first meeting with Vladimir Putin in early 2004. According to him, "Putin asked him to keep the post of Minister of State Security for Valery Haburzaniya, who held the post during Shevardnadze’s term". Then, with his characteristic fervour, Saakashvili noted that he did not succumb to the pressure and fired Haburzaniya.


Valery Haburzaniya himself confirms this: "I have had good relations and close contacts with the leadership of the FSB. They trusted me. Accordingly, Putin trusted me, who told me about it over breakfast in the Kremlin.” Even if Haburzaniya is exaggerating about the "breakfast in the Kremlin," during the meeting with Saakashvili the Russian President actually called Haburzaniya a "good credible guy".


But how and when has the head of the Georgian special services achieved the highest confidence of the leadership of Russia? This question can be answered exactly: during the events in the Pankisi Gorge at the beginning of the noughties, when Valery Haburzaniya, as Minister of State Security, actively collaborated with the Russian special services, continuously transmitting credible information, and finally achieved the expulsion of militants from the valley.


However, Moscow was not at all happy with the process, insisting not on expelling the unit of Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelayev back to Russia but on a joint military operation to destroy it. But Moscow knew perfectly well that Haburzaniya could act only within the limits of his political competence, and a joint military operation was outside its scope. This point is illustrated by the professional approach of the Russian leadership to the problem.


After the "Rose Revolution" Haburzaniya lived in Moscow and had decided to return exactly at the time when in the dark tunnel of Russian-Georgian relations a ray of light loomed in the form of possible co-operation in holding the Olympic Games.


Nevertheless, the special representative of the Prime Minister on the normalization of relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, repeatedly stressed in an interview to VK that cooperation between intelligence services of Russia and Georgia "is possible only on a specific issue of ensuring security at the Olympics." But the experienced diplomat Abashidze knows that this formulation hides much more. After all, in the end, Georgia really does not border Krasnodar Territory. It borders Abkhazia, the independence of which is recognized by Russia. Hence, the "security at the Olympics" means the full range of issues - from Georgian policy in the North Caucasus (including the "Circassian question") to refusing to provide information sites to opponents of Moscow in the North Caucasus region.


This was indirectly confirmed in an interview to VK by Zurab Abashidze, who was, in 1998-2004, the Georgian ambassador to Moscow: "We do not want Georgia to be accused of creating problems if they do occur during the Olympics, so we decided to take part in it." If we translate this from diplomatic language, Tbilisi fears that if Umarov and his "terrorist company" really try to sabotage the Olympics, a "boycott" of the games by Georgia will look and will be represented by the media as indirect support of terrorist acts with all the ensuing consequences.

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