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Lapankuri incident: Many questions with few answers

By Messenger Staff
Friday, August 31
On August 29, the Georgian media received unclear and vague information about the incident that took place at Lapankuri village in the Kakheti region next to the Georgian-Russian border. Controversial information appeared throughout the day as varying accounts of the number killed and wounded was given; there was almost no reliable official statement available. However, there were many comments from analysts, journalists and political figures.

Opposition members were openly expressing their doubt about the real situation at the Lopota ravine; some even suggested that it could be the prelude for a possible high-scale military provocation.

The major question was how this group appear in Georgian territory? This remained question unanswered the entire day. According to one version, it was a paramilitary group of Islamic militants acting in Dagestan territory in the mountains, which had conducted several terrorist attacks and was pressed by the Russian military to move into the direction of Georgia.

This kind of action was practiced by the Russian military several times during the Chechen adventure, when Russian Federation forces provided a corridor for Chechen militants to enter Georgian territory.

This would give ground to the Russians to say that Georgia shelters terrorists conducting attacks from Georgian territory. But this idea was frustrated by the actions of the Georgian military. The approximate number of intruders who proliferated in Georgia was around 15-20. They were well-armed, while in the mountains they captured several Georgians and held them for some time.

Georgian military personnel began a large-scale operation after five people did not return back to Lapankuri village. They were locals and should not have lost their way; so the search started and included police and border guards. Georgian law enforcers demanded that the armed group surrender when they found them but this offer was rejected. The fighting started when one militant was killed; meanwhile the kidnapped men were released.

If Georgian military personnel would not have captured the armed men and they would have escaped into Russia it would have caused another complication. The Georgian opposition is sceptical about all this and suggest that Georgian officials have been planning a similar type of unrest between Georgia and Russia, which would give reason to the official Tbilisi to declare a state of emergency in the country. Thus the election process would have stopped and the election would have been postponed for an unknown period of time.

There is also another “modest” explanation which would end with positive results for President Saakashvili’s immensely increasing rating. This would enable the ruling United National Movement to once again try to confirm that the Georgian Dream is supported by Russia. Famous Georgian stage director, Robert Sturua, who recently made some political comments, stated that the author of the scenario of these developments was Saakashvili himself. Some opposition leaders also consider this as a kind of a plot masterminded by the United National Movement. This way or another, this event showed that confrontation between the ruling party and the opposition is based on mistrust and strong antagonism. But whatever the developments, the border game is very dangerous and can always develop in unpredictable directions.