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Tbilisi Banks Diplomatic Credit from Kodori Attack

Georgian authorities seem inclined to shelve, at least for now, a report by the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), which suggested the involvement of Russian army helicopters in the March 11 attack on upper Kodori Gorge.
Although senior lawmakers in Georgia have already welcomed the report as a “diplomatic victory” for Tbilisi, they seem reluctant to use it for propaganda purposes.

Davit Bakradze, a lawmaker from the ruling party, who chairs the committee on Euro-Atlantic integration, said the Georgian authorities were not planning on unleashing “political hysteria” on this sensitive issue.

“We have received as much diplomatic dividends as Georgia could have received from this case. Therefore, I believe that it is not appropriate to hype this report,” Bakradze told Civil.Ge on July 13.

He added, however, that the incident would not be forgotten. He said the report could be used as an important lever sometime in the future in debates within the UN.

Tbilisi’s moderate response is in marked contrast to its reaction last October to alleged Russian espionage. Then, four alleged Russian spies were publicly and humiliatingly expelled from the country. Russia retaliated with an embargo on Georgia.

The UNOMIG report has, surprisingly, received very little media attention in Georgia. The Georgian daily, 24 Saati, however, was the exception, publishing an article by David Smith, the head of the Georgian Security Analysis Center and a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

Smith (who saw the UNOMIG report before it was published), said keeping cool and quite during the investigation was the right approach.

“Had Georgia and its western friends raised a premature diplomatic ruckus, it might have derailed the investigation, enabling Moscow to point an accusatory finger at Tbilisi. But keeping calm in the first instance presumes the courage to speak out when the report is done,” he said in the article.

The UNOMIG report suggests not only that army helicopters could have been involved in the attack, but also indicates that the Tbilisi-controlled gorge in breakaway Abkhazia came under artillery fire from Abkhaz-controlled territory. Inconclusive language used in the report is a clear reflection of the politically sensitive nature of the incident.

Nika Rurua, a lawmaker from the ruling party and the deputy chair of the parliamentary committee for defense and security, said the report, which “indirectly accused Russia” of an attack, “is an obvious blow for Russia’s international image.” 

“This is a warning to Russia’s neighbors that they have to deal with violent and irrational groups, who occupy various positions in the Russian government,” he told Civil.Ge on July 13.


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