The events in Boston have given rise to a number of questions as well as theories regarding the real reasons behind them. Initial attempts to warm up more anti-Russian hysteria came up against the latest in a series of facts testifying to the troubled activities in the Caucasus and a number of so-called non-governmental organisations closely linked with specialist agencies of distant overseas powers around them. Information published in the newspaper Izvestiya noted the existence of documents from Georgia’s Department of Counterintelligence confirming that the Georgian organisation «Kavkazsky Fund», which collaborates with the American non-governmental organisation «Jamestown» (the NGO’s board of directors previously included one of America’s foreign policy ideologists, Zbigniew Brzezinski) has been busy recruiting residents in the North Caucasus to work in the interests of the United States and Georgia, The publication quotes reports by Colonel Grigory Chanturiya of the Chief Directorate of Georgia’s Counterintelligence Department to Internal Affairs Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, according to which the «Kavkazsky Fund» together with the «Jamestown» foundation carried out events and seminars in the summer of 2012 for young people in the Caucasus, including the Russian part. They were also attended by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was in Russia from January to July 2012. The «Kavkazsky Fund», writes Chanturiya, was created on 7 November 2008, just after the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, «to control the processes taking place in the North Caucasus region». Consequently, Georgia’s Counterintelligence Department started a file on counterintelligence operations called «Daryal». The main aims of the Fund were to enlist young people and intellectuals in the North Caucasus in order to increase instability and extremist sentiment in Russia’s southern regions. (1)
Georgia’s response was not long in coming. Commenting on a number of media reports, Nino Giorgobiani, head of the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ press service, maintained that Georgia’s Internal Affairs Ministry does not have any information about the fact that one of the organisers behind the terrorist attacks in Boston, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, attended seminars held in Georgia along with Americans: «We don’t have such information, we haven’t heard anything of the kind, we don’t know».(2) A statement from the agency’s press service states that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had never been to Georgia. Colonel Grigory Chanturiya, meanwhile, who allegedly prepared the report on the sabotage work of Georgia’s intelligence agency in the North Caucasus, could not be found on the lists of either active or retired Interior Ministry employees. According to the head of the «Kavkazsky Fund» Givi Gambashidze, his organisation has never held joint seminars with the «Jamestown Foundation» as suggested in Izvestiya. In turn, Badri Nachkebia, director of the Centre for Terrorism Research and Political Violence, has awkwardly tried to draw attention away, noting: «One could also look for a trace of Russian responsibility. He (Tsarnaev) studied in Dagestan; he might have also had contact with Russia’s security services. Until there is irrefutable evidence on the use of these young people by different countries’ security services, such speculations will hang thick in the air».(3)
Nevertheless, the article published in Izvestiya is relatively sympathetic. Suffice it to recall that the so-called («so-called» because it appears not to be completely independent) North Caucasus focus of Georgia’s foreign policy as a whole has never inspired Russia with particular optimism. In this context, all of the current discussions regarding the supposed training of the Tsarnaev brothers by Georgian security services and the CIA are just another episode illustrating the deep mistrust still present in relations between Russia and Georgia. After all, Georgia’s continued pedalling (under all of the country’s previous governments) of the North Caucasus issue as a whole and Chechnya in particular was widely known.
Not wishing to re-repeat well-known facts (the most renowned of which, for example, concern the raid on Ruslan Gelaev’s forces on the Kodori Gorge in 2001, the situation in Pankisi at the end of the 1990s-beginning of the 2000s and a number of others), I will only mention that Georgia’s enduring interest in Russia’s North Caucasus has been constantly apparent right up to the present time. Thus in a relatively recent interview, the former Representative of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in Georgia, Khizri Aldamov, while talking about events in 2008, noted: «In 2008 there was a war. Russian troops were just 25 km away from Tbilisi. One night I called Georgy Gamsakhurdia, the Deputy Minister of Diaspora Issues: «Khizri, why aren’t the Chechens helping us?» Give me the name of an account in any bank, we will transfer as much as you like into it, start launching terrorist attacks in Vladikavkaze!… Saakaashvili and his people travelled around Arabic countries and arranged that the money that had previously gone to soldiers in the war would now go through a Georgian bank which they controlled. The distribution of this money was taken care of by Georgy Gamsakhurdia and deputy Tsiklauri. The money also went through the Ukraine. The terrorist attacks in Russia emanated from Georgia. (4)
Aldamov also referred to a specific organisation that dealt with establishing and maintaining links with North Caucasus militants. «They created an organisation which controlled all of the Chechen refugees in Georgia, all of the militants. Alla Dudayeva was brought from Lithuania and given citizenship, a house, money. Akhyada Idigova (former head of the Chechen parliament) returned from France. A relative of his, Umar Idigov, is married to Kistinka Khangoshvili. The group was created specifically to control Chechnya. At the head of it all stood the Antiterrorism Centre. And behind that – the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Chechen issue is being supervised by Georgian Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Giya Lordkipanidze. If necessary, he also sends people out to commit terrorist attacks. The money for this is provided by the Pankisi Jamaat. They have the Jamaat in their hands. There are even militants in Pankisi today. There are people who travel to Chechnya and back». (5)
It goes without saying that Georgia refers to these and other interviews by Aldamov as provocative. The then-chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Caucasus Issues, Nugzar Tsiklauri, declared that «Georgia had been waiting for words like these from Aldamov after he renounced all of his previous and political activities… We are not surprised by his trivial, primitive statements about the fact that terrorists are allegedly being trained in Georgia. It’s the same old story. We have heard it from representatives of the Russian authorities a thousand times».(6) It should be mentioned here that a book by Islam Saidayev will soon be appearing on the shelves of bookshops which talks about the role of Georgia’s security services in aiding and abetting not only bandit underground organisations, but also members of international terrorism.
One could regard the statement by the former Representative of Ichkeria differently, of course. However, as has already been mentioned, a fact remains a fact: the constant fuss made by official Tbilisi on the North Caucasus issue until very recently cannot possibly go unnoticed and raises a number of questions. Moreover, these questions were already being asked by the people of Georgia. A special operation carried out by the Georgian authorities in the Lopota Gorge near the village of Lapankuri on 29-30 August 2012 gave rise to quite a few suspicions in Georgian society, as well as displeasure which even found its way into a report by Georgian Ombudsman Ucha Nanuashvili. The report clearly states that the groups were made up of Chechen fighters and training was carried out at military bases close to Tbilisi – in Vaziani and Shavnabada… Employees of Georgia’s security services, as well as Chechen militants with large combat experience, served as instructors of these Chechen fighters». (7)
Dzhokhar Dudayev’s nephew and member of the Georgian community Umar Idigov expressed confidence that the special operation carried out in the Lopota Gorge was political PR by the President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, who was trying to «earn points» on the eve of the parliamentary elections on 1 October. Gela Mtivlishvili, head of the agency «Kakheti Information Centre», was in agreement with Idigov. He declared that he also adhered to Umar Idigov’s version. However, according to Mtivlishvili, as yet we only know that representatives of Georgia’s Antiterrorism Centre came into contact with those members of the group who lived on the Pankisi Gorge, the other members of the group travelled to Georgia through Sarpi, a small settlement on Georgia’s Black Sea coast situated 30 km south of Batumi on the border with Turkey. (8)
This story is only indirectly related to what happened in Boston, of course. But based on the events of the last few years, Georgia itself provides more than enough grounds for all manner of theories, suspicions and not altogether agreeable analogies. In a recent interview (given on 5 May 2013), Salome Zurabishvili, referring to a number of dark chapters in the modern history of Georgia, remarked: «In connection with the Lopota Gorge tragedy, it is not only possible but necessary that questions be asked. The same with many other (to put it mildly) «unexplained events» that have taken place in Georgia over the last few years (the attempted terrorist attack during George Bush’s visit, the operation in Svaneti, the death of Zurab Zhvania, the murder of Guram Sharadze, the youth operation in Gali, the coup attempt in Ganmukhuri, the bombing of Tsitelubani, the Mukhrovani mutiny, the desolation of Kodori, the Lopota special operation etc.)» (9).
Immediately commenting on the Lopota Gorge incident, Bidzina Ivanishvili declared: «With accuracy we also know that our authorities shamelessly lied from the very first day of the operation in the Lopota Gorge, they lied when they told us they were fighting guerrilla groups that had come across from Russia… the moment it turned out the group was not from Russia, they started telling us that not a single one of the group’s members was a Georgian citizen».(10)
However, that was in the autumn of 2012. The activities of Georgia’s previous governments, as well as a number of representatives of the country’s current government, obviously raise a number of questions. The issue of the possibility (and in some cases even the desire) of adjusting Georgia’s foreign policy stirs up considerable doubts. The situation with Georgia’s opportunity for energy diversification has shown that Ivanishvili’s resources are still limited. The Winter Olympics are going to be taking place in 2014 and, judging by certain evidence, regular visitors to Sochi are trying to link security at the Olympics with issues the West considers a priority (first and foremost in relation to Syria).
The situation regarding the outgoing Georgian president at the moment is, at the very least, unenviable. However, this far from means that Georgia’s focus on export instability in Russia’s North Caucasus will not be in demand once again. Moreover, the traditional channels and mechanisms for such exports could be improved in view of both the positions that have already been won and new organisational, technological and psycho-emotional developments (11). On 30 April the head of the government, Bidzina Ivanishvili, observed demonstration tactical field training exercises called «Isari 013» («Arrow 013») being carried out at a military facility in Vaziani (near Tbilisi). According to reports in the local media, Georgian Army Special Operations also took part in the exercises (12). The American-Georgian security charter, which was approved in 2009, remains in force, but there is no evidence of any real inclination to review the scandalous decision taken by the Georgian parliament on 20 May 2011 regarding the so-called «Circassian genocide». After all, recent headway on these issues (if only the start of a public discussion on the real influence they have on regional stability and security) could serve as a kind of «litmus paper» for adjusting the so-called North Caucasus vector of Georgian foreign policy.
(1) Kashevarova, A., Tamerlan Tsarnaev was recruited through the Georgian fund. Tsoy, Yu. http://izvestia.ru/news/549252
(4) Revelations from the Ambassador of Ichkeria // http://www.mk.ru/politics/article/2012/07/30/731222-otkroveniya-posla-ichkerii.html?3357e250
(11) For example, the fact that soldiers in the Georgian Army are trained by American military companies is hardly likely to be a revelation to some specialists. One area of focus is the training of guerrilla groups. In 2011, instructors from the American military company Cubic Application International (CAI) trained nearly 200 soldiers from the Ministry of Defence’s long-range surveillance unit and more than 100 employees from Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs special units. The majority of them have taken part in military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their training was carried out with a focus on guerrilla-terrorist training. Exercises involving landmines and explosives included practical training on disabling railroad tracks as well as planting mines in buildings and on roads – see Nefedov, D. Military cooperation between Georgia and the Ukraine to prepare for war in the Caucasus // http://hvylya.org/analytics/geopolitics/voennoe-sotrudnichestvo-gruzii-s-ukrainoy-v-kontekste-podgotovki-k-voyne-na-kavkaze.html
(12) Mukhin, V. Special forces focus on Sochi // http://www.ng.ru/regions/2013-05-14/1_sochi.html