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Cablegate: Georgia: South Ossetia--Sitrep 3: Russian Bombs

VZCZCXRO7065
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1343/01 2220756
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 090756Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9867
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001343

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/CARC

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/09/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM RU GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: SOUTH OSSETIA--SITREP 3: RUSSIAN BOMBS
FALL THROUGHOUT GEORGIA

REF: TBILISI 1341

Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

1. (C) Begin Summary and Comment: Multiple bases,
airports, and Georgia's port of Poti were all bombed
overnight by Russian aircraft, with bombing continuing in the
daylight hours of August 9, with bombs hitting civilian
targets in the Georgian city of Gori. Reports of casualties
continue to come in, most still unreliable and unverifiable,
but it is clear that casualty numbers are growing. There
were reportedly dozens killed in Senaki and Poti. The
government of Georgia has not declared a state of emergency,
but is limiting news being aired on TV and has evacuated some
key government buildings in Tbilisi. The bombing is causing
widespread fear in the Georgian population. In South
Ossetia, OSCE confirms that artillery fire continued into the
morning hours near Tskhinvali. The MFA has released no new
statements, and the Ministry of Reintegration has said the
Abkhaz de-facto authorities have asked UNOMIG to immediately
withdraw from Kodori. This sitrep covers events that have
transpired overnight on August 8-9 in Georgia (reftel). End
Summary and comment.

2. (C) President Saakashvili told the Ambassador in a late
morning phone call that the Russians are out to take over
Georgia and install a new regime. They will not stop at
retaking South Ossetia, but will move on Tbilisi. He fears
the Russians will never agree to a ceasefire. Saakashvili
and the Georgian leadership now believe that this entire
Russian military operation is all part of a grand design by
Putin to take Georgia and change the regime. Saakashvili
said that the Russian forces are now attacking Tskhinvali and
the Georgian forces are resisting. We believe the Georgians
are out of air defense supplies, which makes them vulnerable
to Russian air attacks. He also believes the Russians will
soon attack and try to seize the upper Kodori valley.
Ominously, the Abkhaz formally asked UNOMIG this morning to
withdraw their detachment in the Upper Kodori.

3. (C) OSCE observers report that beginning at 0600 on
August 9 Georgian artillery began shelling Tskhinvali and
becoming heavy after 0900 to the Southwest of the city. The
JPFK commander reported that ten of his Russian peacekeepers
were dead, and others were wounded. OSCE observers said that
Georgian aircraft were bombing the city at 1100 on August 8.
According to OSCE, there has been no visible presence of
Georgian forces in the city since 1500 on August 8 when they
withdrew. No accurate numbers of casualties are available
and no international organizations such as Red Cross are
present to assist with casualties.

4. (C) Poloff called the MFA and was told that there are no
new statements since August 8, but confirmed that the
Government has not/not called a state of emergency. The MFA
website: www.mfa.gov.ge appears to have been hacked.

5. (C) Deputy Minister of Reintegration Ruslan Abashidze told
Poloff that the situation in South Ossetia is the same as
August 8, with shelling coming from Java, but he believes
Georgian forces control the nearby villages. He said that
Georgian forces are in control of Tskhinvali and are inside
the city. Turning to the Abkhaz conflict he reported that the
Abkhaz side has asked UNOMIG to withdraw immediately from
Kodori (note: we have been unable to confirm request this
with UNOMIG but such a move indicated intended hostilities).

6. (C) UNOMIG observers reported that all was quiet in the
Zugdidi on the evening of August 8, aside from Abkhaz moving
9 T-55 (1960,s Soviet era) tanks toward the cease-fire line.

7. (C) Confirmed overnight (August 8-9) bombings include:

-- Vaziani, again. This former Soviet military base, which
is usually home to 4th Brigade is being used as a
mobilization site for reservists. It lies only a few
kilometers east of Tbilisi. Buildings were reportedly hit
this time.

-- Senaki military base in west Georgia. This base is home
to the 2nd Brigade. Unconfirmed reports indicate 20 killed
there.

-- The Port of Poti. Georgia's deepest port outside of
Ochamchire in Abkhazia. Several "flat racks" where ships are
loaded and unloaded were bombed, as was the nearby Coast
Guard station. Press reports indicate at least 15 people
were killed.

TBILISI 00001343 002 OF 002

-- Kopinari Airport near Kutaisi. This joint civilian and
military airport was also bombed. It is home to Su-25
fighters and AN-2 Colt resupply aircraft.

-- Marneuli Airbase, approximately 40 km south of Tbilisi,
was bombed for the third time.

-- The city of Gori. Apparently, one attempt by Russian jets
to bomb an artillery position near Gori missed. A bomb
landed in town destroying some stores and abandoned
buildings. No casualties were reported in this attack.
Georgian radio later reported that Russian bombers attacked
Gori early August 9, attempting to knock out the last bridge
linking the road crossing Georgia from east to west as well
as a communications tower. President Saakashvili reported
that at mid-day August 9, Russian planes had begun bombing
housing blocks in Gori, with hundreds of casualties, calling
this "pure terror."

-- Upper Kodori was also bombed. Details are sketchy.

8. (C) Additional unconfirmed reports include:

-- Sections of the railroad running from Poti toward Kutaisi
may have been bombed.

-- Dozens of police in Mestia (north west Georgia) have
mobilized and are moving toward the Russian border.

-- The Zugdidi road is open, and Georgian troops are moving
north toward Kodori.

9. (C) On the economic front, the Government has been
undertaking contingency planning in case of a prolonged
conflict. During an August 8 meeting with the Ambassador,
Prime Minister Gurgenidze talked about his efforts to calm
investors during the current crisis. He noted that the
economy had been remarkably calm. There had been no change
in the currency and the stock exchange was working normally.
Georgia had not touched its Eurobond money, and natural gas
and electricity supplies were in good shape. The PM noted
that the Georgians were considering contingencies, especially
with regard to energy supplies, should the conflict continue.
For example, one major power plant had already shifted over
to natural gas from electricity and there are plans to import
gas from Turkey. The Georgians are also planning to stop
exports of electricity to Russia and have made arrangements
to purchase "off-peak" energy from Azerbaijan. Although
investors were nervous, the PM noted that there was no panic
buying among the population.
TEFFT

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