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Cablegate: Georgia: Sitrep 9: Russian Troops Remain In

VZCZCXRO9486
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1372/01 2261118
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 131118Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9898
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 001372

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/CARC AND TASKFORCE-1

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/12/2018
TAGS: GG RS PGOV PHUM PREL
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: SITREP 9: RUSSIAN TROOPS REMAIN IN
GEORGIA; SAAKASHVILI, ALLIE...

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 001372 SIPDIS DEPT FOR EUR/CARC AND TASKFORCE-1 E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/12/2018 TAGS: GG RS PGOV PHUM PREL

SUBJECT: GEORGIA: SITREP 9: RUSSIAN TROOPS REMAIN IN GEORGIA; SAAKASHVILI, ALLIES DEFIANT REF: TBILISI 1362 1. (SBU)

Begin Summary: As of mid-afternoon August 13, Georgian officials report that Russians destroyed the Georgian military base in Gori and that there is shooting in the streets between Russian troops in APCs and Georgians in civilian clothing; embassy officers on the scene in Gori early August 13 confirmed these reports. Russian troops are also maintaining a heavy presence in Zugdidi; both areas are outside of the conflict zones. The GOG has also reported looting and executions of ethnic Georgians taking place in Gori and Georgian villages near Tskhinvali in the conflict zone. There are reports accusing Russian Cossacks of these crimes. UNOMIG confirms that Abkhaz militia are present in Ganmukhuri and other Georgian villages near Zugdidi. Armed Abkhaz stole cars at gun point in Rukhi during the night. On August 12, Parliament convened a special session, and President Saakashvili led two rallies in front of Parliament, attracting 50,000 to 60,000 people each. At the second rally, the Presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine, and the PM of Estonia called for Georgians to unite, and expressed solidarity with the country in its bid for freedom and democracy. They jointly demanded strong EU and UN action to defend Georgia's sovereignty, democracy, and territorial integrity. French President Sarkozy made a quick late evening stop in Tbilisi August 13 to discuss cease-fire terms with President Saakashvili and carried an agreed paper for consideration of EU Foreign Ministers.

2. (C) The Georgian Government confirms Russian tanks are in Poti and have occupied the Coast Guard station, seized three Coast Guard cutters, and reportedly ordered personnel to leave. Embassy observers in Poti said that local contacts reported that the Russians warned the mayor to evacuate the port so that they could destroy military vessels there. Embassy observers departed Poti after hearing large explosions and seeing black smoke over the port. Conflicting reports indicate that the Port of Poti is open, but cannot store cargo. Despite Russian President Medvedev's order to halt combat operations on the ground, subsequent bombings were reported in the afternoon of August 12 in Gori, Kaspi, and Khashuri region, all outside the zone of conflict. BP confirmed reports that they have shut down their Baku-Supsa pipeline, which runs north of Gori. The New Rightists opposition party issued a statement denouncing Russia's actions, and appealing for international assistance and MAP in NATO. This sitrep covers events of August 12 after the previous sitrep (reftel) through mid-day August 13. End Summary.

3. (C) Comment: No new aerial bombings were reported overnight, August 12-13. Saakashvili's and Machavariani's speeches yesterday announcing the cease-fire (below) were heavily laced with an overtone of victory for Georgia against Russia and personal accusations that Russian Prime Minister Putin was responsible for the operation. Some Tbilisians have expressed significant disappointment with the aggressive tone of the messages (and singing at the rallies), given the crushing defeat and devastation visited upon the country. A three-day mourning period was announced, beginning August 13, which may help soften yesterday's tone in the capital. End comment.

Trouble In, Outside Gori ------------------------

4. (SBU) GOG officials report that Russians destroyed the Georgian military base in Gori, well outside of the conflict zone. The GOG has also reported looting and executions taking place in Gori and villages near Tskhinvali. GOG claims local sources tell of Ossetian separatists taking Georgians hostage in the villages of Nikozi, Dzveri, Tkviavi, and Karaleti (north of Gori). Additional reports indicate Russian Cossacks are shooting local Georgians and raping women/girls in the villages from South Ossetia to Gori. Post is unable to confirm these reports due to the inaccessibility of the region; however they have been increasing in number and tempo. An Embassy contact told us Russian Cossacks shot a relative in Gori as the relative tried to stop them from looting.

Russians in Zugdidi, Abkhaz also in Georgia -------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) UNOMIG confirms that Russian troops maintain a heavy presence, with tanks, in Zugdidi. Abkhaz militia are present in Ganmukhuri and other Georgian villages near Zugdidi. They have taken over three Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs observation posts. Armed Abkhaz stole cars at gun point in Rukhi during the night (the last village north of Zugdidi, before you reach the Inguri river crossing). GOG claims that Abkhaz militia are entering these villages, and possibly other Georgian villages in the area, with the likely intent of looting and violence. As of August 12, the Russian troops in Zugdidi had reportedly been mostly civil toward the population.

Parliament, Saakashvili Denounce Russia ---------------------------------------

6. (SBU) On August 12, Parliament convened a special session, and President Saakashvili led a rally at 1500 in front of Parliament on Rustaveli. (Note: A famous Georgian poet's funeral took place at the same time across the street from Parliament. End note.) The Parliamentary session saw multiple MPs, including Speaker David Bakradze, Vice Speaker Machavariani, and opposition leader Giorgi Targamadze denounce Russia's attacks and call for unity in restoring the country. Post estimates more than 50,000 people attended. Many were waving Georgian flags and, notably, had driven themselves there (rather than being driven to the rally by Saakashvili's political supporters). The group was quite diverse, with many young people. Although many were Saakashvili supporters, many attendees told embassy officers that they were there to support the troops and the country, but not the President. After verbally personally attacking Putin and calling for Georgian victory (in traditional Georgian style), Saakashvili denounced Russia's attacks on Georgia's democratic sovereignty. Saakashvili compared the current situation to David and Goliath and the April 9, 1989 killing of peaceful demonstrators by USSR spetznaz. Saakashvili pointed out that the country is united, and thanked the opposition and world community for their support. At the end of his speech, Saakashvili announced Georgia will leave the CIS, in a final "good-bye to the Soviet Union." Eastern

Europeans Support Georgia, Saakashvili --------------------------------------------- -

7. (U) At the rally, Saakashvili invited the crowd to return later the same evening and meet the Presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine, and the PM of Estonia. A smaller, but enthusiastic crowd still numbering in the tens of thousands, met the group. Broadcast live, and singing and waving flags from the various countries (including one large U.S. flag), the crowd was appreciative of the foreign dignitaries. At approximately 2300, the Presidents each addressed the crowd and called for Georgians to unite in the face of Russia. Each also expressed solidarity with the country in its bid for freedom and democracy. The group (minus Ukraine's President Yuschenko, who had already left Georgia to return to Kyiv) held a press brief on August 13 at 1215. They demanded the EU and UN adopt a real decision on the solution to the conflict, that would hold Russia accountable for its actions and recognize and support Georgia's territorial integrity.

After the Cease-Fire, Clashes Persist -------------------------------------

8. (U) Despite Russian President Medvedev's order to halt combat operations ground at 1345 August 12, subsequent bombings were reported on the afternoon of August 12 in Gori, Kaspi, Ruisi village, and Khashuri region, all outside the zone of conflict. The GOG issued a press release (emailed to EUR/CARC) in which they confirmed Russian troops' presence in Zugdidi, additional bombings, a blockade of the port in Poti, forced detention of ethnic Georgians in a camp near Kurta, targeted killings of ethnic Georgians elsewhere in the South Ossetian zone of conflict, and economic warfare including bombing of the railroad and station in Kaspi (last point confirmed). Post has not verified all of these instances; however, most appear credible. There were no bombings reported overnight August 12-13.

Coast Guard Cutters Seized at Poti ----------------------------------

9. (C) The GOG reports that at least two Russian tank crews are in Poti now. They have occupied the Coast Guard station, seized three Coast Guard cutters (two 24-meter and one 44-meter), and reportedly ordered personnel to leave. Post's GOG contact told us that the three cutters may likely be sunk (media reports claimed they already were). The crews that remain are not resisting, and are reportedly being treated respectfully. (Note: Post's GBSLE-program has donated over USD 1.5 mil to the three vessels. Five other Coast Guard vessels have apparently not yet been seized, but their location unknown. End note.) Conflicting reports indicate that the Port of Poti is open and operable (including one from our cargo handler), but cannot store cargo due to bomb damage to its storage facilities. Other reports say Russian naval vessels are still blocking ships from entering. A container vessel from Turkey was refused landing by a Russian naval vessel on August 12. Post heard another unconfirmed report that any ship wishing to use the port must file first with the Russian embassy in Tbilisi.

BP Shuts Down Pipeline Near Gori --------------------------------

10. (U) BP confirmed reports that they have shut down their Baku-Supsa pipeline, which runs north of Gori, as a precautionary measure. The pipeline was only operating at about one-third of its capacity, and is fully operational. However, with the loss of shipping capacity at Poti, and having been targeted by bombs (which apparently have not harmed the pipeline) near Gori, BP decided to shut down the pipeline for the time being.

New Rightists Issue Statement -----------------------------

11. (U) The New Rightists opposition party issued a statement denouncing Russia's attacks on Georgia's sovereignty. They also appealed for continued international assistance and support, and strongly called for NATO to approve Georgia's request for a MAP.

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