The messenger logo

Two Georgian citizens among dead after Lopota Operation

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, September 4
Seven of the individuals out of eleven killed during the operation at Lopota Gorge have been identified– two of them are Georgian citizens. An official statement concerning the issue was made by the Interior Ministry on September 3. Some opposition members have said that the fact that Georgian citizens were among the killed is “alarming”.

The names of Georgian citizens are Aslan Margoshvili and Bahaudin Kavtarashvil. Based on the Interior Ministry, five of the dead are Russian citizens from the North Caucasus. One of them, namely Bahaudin Baghakashvili was born in Grozny on February 10, 1986 and has relatives in Pankisi gorge.

Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Nino Kalandadze, is sure that the special operation will not increase tension in the country’s relations with the North Caucasus states. Kalandadze underscored that Georgia has simplified the visa regime with those countries and the Georgian authorities are trying to further deepen the relationship.

Majority representative Khatuna Ochiauri emphasized that the public will take the deaths of Georgian citizens during the special operation “with understanding.” According to her, the only aspect that can be condemned regarding the special operation was the action of the armed gang on Georgian territory. “This incident will not increase the tension in Pankisi Gorge, as the residents of the gorge wish peace just like Georgian citizens do. People in the gorge are sensible and they will not allow any tension there,” Ochiauri stated.

However, the situation might be not as easily diffused as the government thinks. According to Lioma Chabaev, who currently works as the chair of the North Caucasus Bureau of Radio Freedom, the operation in Lopota Gorge might have been ended without victims and the information reported by Georgian officials is “less trustful for the North Caucasus people.”

According to Chabaev, Saakashvili opened a front against the Caucasus Emirate and against the people who support the rebels and the liberation movement against Russia and Russian representatives in Caucasus.

What has happened in Lopota is regrettable, he explained, as the North Caucasus people have always supported Georgian statehood.

“It is difficult to state what has happened in reality, but it can be said that Saakashvili made a gesture of reverence to Russia by this operation,” Chabaev stated in his interview with Radio Freedom.

Nika Laliashvili, who is a member of the parliamentary minority Christian-Democratic Movement, said that the controversial statements made by the Interior Ministry and there being Georgian citizens among the dead is an alarming fact.

“It is clear that the group had negative aims and these actions always have a political basis, especially when there is an impending election ahead,” Laliashvili said.

According to Laliashvili, it is also unclear why the Interior Ministry had initially stated that there were no Georgian citizens among the dead. He also asserted that the Christian-Democratic Movement does not share in the belief that the killed men were members of a criminal group.

As analyst, Malkhaz Chemia told The Messenger the government does not give up staged scenarios while pre-election period which are too dangerous of the country and might impose “transfer of international terrorism in the country.”

According to analyst in conflict issues Malkhaz Chemia, the government staged the special operation. “Such staged special operations during the pre-election period are very dangerous and might create a terrorist treat inside the country,” Chemia told The Messenger.

Analyst in Caucasus issues, Mamuka Areshidze was the first who stated that there were Georgian citizens among the killed during the special operation. However, this information was denied by the Interior Ministry at the time. He underscored that the special operation imposes too many controversies and questions.