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Special operation brings about new questions and consequences

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, August 31
The main phase of the special operation at Lopota ravine is over, Shota Khizanishvili Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs (MIA) said on Thursday. 11 members of armed group were killed during the special operation while policemen continue searching for the several militants men in the woods. Khizanishvili said some of the militants were Russian citizens from the north Caucasus, so they will be buried according to their religious traditions.

Giga Bokeria, Secretary of Georgian National Security Council (NSC) said that at first the kidnappers had captured the five young men from Lapankuri, but later they also caught the border-guards and police who tried to release the hostages.

Stressing that the “serious incident” close to the Russian border poses no threat to Georgia’s security, Bokeria said it cannot be used by Russia as a pretext for “aggression” against Georgia. Vadim Shibayev, a spokesman for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), who is in charge of border guards, called the allegations that suspected militants crossed into Georgia from Russia “provocative”. Shibayev told RIA Novosti agency that no cases of trespassing of the Dagestani section of the Russian-Georgian border has been observed. “Unfortunately, it is not the first time when the Georgian side has reported incidents on the Russian-Georgian border, but not a single one has been confirmed,” he said, while for Bokeria, the Russian FSB’s denial of the border violation was “not serious.”

Bokeria also spoke of the possible connection with the recent situation in Dagestan where according to Aljazeera, insurgents fighting to carve an Islamic state from the North Caucasus attack Russian officials and law enforcement personnel almost daily, and have also increasingly targeted mainstream Muslim leaders backed by the authorities.

But according to the website “the leadership of mujahideens of the Vilayat Dagestan confirms” that its militants were involved in armed clashes against the Georgian troops, but they neither intended to “carry out any operation on Georgian territory” nor took anyone hostage.

Calling the 11 dead men “victims” of the “treacherous” plot of the Georgian authorities, the statement addressed the Georgian authorioties to immediately stop the confrontation otherwise they will have a new “enemy” which will “[seek] revenge in a horrible way.”

The “anti-terrorist” operation at the Dagestan section of the Georgian-Rusian border started late on August 28 when the “well-armed” and “well-trained” kidnappers of five local youth from Lapankuri village refused to surrender. Two officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and a military doctor of the Ministry of Defense also died at Lopota ravine located at the Georgian-Russian border. In addition 5 Georgian officers were wounded.

Meeting with the Ministers of Internal Affairs and Defence at his residence in Kakheti, Saakashvili said the operation at Lopota gorge was a good lesson for everybody. He said Georgian law enforcers seem to have improved their skills since the Georgia-Russian war in 2008 and overcame the “provocation” of the “occupants.”

President Mikheil Saakashvili said earlier on Wednesday that Georgian statehood will not let unrest, instability and violence on the territory of our neighbors move to Georgia and endanger the peaceful development of our country. Emphasizing Georgia’s openness for cooperation, Saakashvili addressed the “north Caucasian brothers”not to let anyone use them as a “tool for provocation.”

But the recent armed confrontation at the Georgian-Russian border caused controversies among Georgian society. Questions on when and how the so called sabotours managed to enter Georgian territory or why they took hostages make most analysts’ think that the Georgian government attempted to “scare” the population before the upcoming elections. But Giga Bokeria denied such “ungrounded accusations.”

Chairman of the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus Zaal Kasrelishvili thinks that the ruling United National Movement (UNM) does not want to hold elections with the rating they have nowadays, thus tried to show off how strong they are and how they can protect the country’s sovereignty. “In reality it is PR,” he stated. Member of the voters’ List Gia Karkarashvili also doubted the reality of the information the goverenmnt has provided so far and added that according to this situation, the safety of the Georgian people seem to be at risk.