The leaders of the CIS countries are coming to Moscow today to participate in the summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The session of the CIS council will take place tomorrow. President Putin had meetings with several leaders of the neighbouring countries of the former soviet Union today. Everybody is looking forward to the meeting with the Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, which is to take place Friday after the CIS summit is over.
The press is waiting for a scandal, which will surely take place, because the Georgian side is intended to raise a question about the recent bombing of the Pankissky gorge of Georgia. This was said by Irakly Menagarishvily – the head of Georgia's Foreign Ministry. In particular, the Georgian foreign minister said “if Moscow does not manage to clear out the situation around the events in the Pankissky gorge, then Tbilisi may raise the problem on the international level, for example at the OSCE foreign ministers council in Bucharest, which is to take place December 3-4.
In connection with the events, which have recently taken place in the Pankissky gorge, Georgia is intended to strengthen its military presence in the region as much as it could be possible, Interfax news agency reported. The Georgian officials asserted that six Russian battle planes Su-25 and four helicopters Mi-24 crossed the state border of the country last night. This fact was registered by the Georgian anti-missile defense complex. However, the Russian military men totally denied that information. It was said the Russian aviation was not working that night, there were no planes or helicopters that could cross the border. The aviation bombed several groups of the Chechen gunmen, who were trying to penetrate onto the Georgian territory – this was done during the daytime. But, as the Russian headquarters stated, this happened on the Russian territory.
Well, there are a lot of claims that can be made to each other both by Georgia and Russia. Russia does not like the idea of the Chechen gunmen to be present and even treated on Georgia’s territory. Eduard Shevardnadze acknowledged that in public. He said there were Chechen guerrillas in Georgia, but as he said “there was no opportunity to withdraw weapons from them so far.” This means that the Georgian authorities do not wish to establish law and order in the country. At the same time, Shevardnadze added, the law-enforcement bodies of the country were conducting the active work for the improvement of the criminal situation in Georgia.
Maybe Eduard Shevardnadze said that on his own personal behalf, since the deputies of the Georgian parliament have another opinion in this respect. They deny the presence of the Chechen and Arab militants in the Pankissky gorge.
Like it was said by the chief of the district police of Georgia, Zurab Tushury, the main reason for the contradiction in the Pankissky gorge between the vast majority of the local population and the criminal groups was the issue of liberation of four monks, who had been taken prisoners in the beginning of November. As it is believed, this incident happened due to the trivial kidnapping, there were no guerrillas involved.
The Georgian deputies went even farther. On Thursday a group of deputies announced about their inclination to leave for the Pankissky gorge to have a meeting with the local population. The deputies wanted to tell the citizens about the measures, taken by the state, for prevention of the bombing in the Pankissky. These measures will most likely be taken by the Georgian defence and foreign ministries. The military command have already announced their inclination to dispatch more troops closer to the borders.
But President Shevardnadze will surely get the most of attention. As it became known, he had the evidence in his hands, that proved Russia’s participation in the mentioned bombing.
Russia has its own counter-arguments in this respect, which can overbalance Shevardnadze’s reasons. Russia will insist on the information, received from the intelligence that said there were a lot of guerrillas, willing to spend this coming winter in Georgia, which may make the army campaign in Chechnya much longer. This is not good for Putin's plans. The president understands that the continuation of the Chechen campaign may have a negative influence on his rating.
Interfax news agency has distributed very bad news for Russia today. As it turned out, the USA had something to prove Russia’s connection with the bombing of Georgia. Washington set out its “deep concern” due to the recent “attacks of the Georgian territory by the Russian forces.” As a spokesman or the US Department of State noticed, that question would soon be discussed with Moscow. The White House, a US Department of State spokesman stated, received the confirmation of the fact that Russia’s helicopters were registered in the air space of Georgia and then attacked the area, known as the Pankissky gorge.
Here you go – American brothers in arms. Maybe Washington was offended by Russia for not supporting America’s efforts against Iraq and it was a peculiar action in respond. Maybe everything has been planned before. Shevardnadze has been to the USA for some reason in the long run.
Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru
Reuters photo: Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze gestures as he answers journalists' questions during a press briefing in Tbilisi, November 5, 2001