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Georgia Braces For ‘Provocations’ On Border With Russia

Georgian parliamentarians met on October 28 with top national security officials to discuss the implications of recent Russian allegations that international terrorists affiliated with Al-Qaeda are transiting Georgia en route to join the ranks of the North Caucasus resistance. The minority Christian Democratic Movement parliament faction responded to those allegations by proposing the creation of a Confidence Group that will monitor the situation in the Pankisi Gorge, which borders Chechnya, and which Chechen militants used as a rear base in 2000-2002.

Members of the Confidence Group, together with journalists and foreign diplomats, will travel to Pankisi on October 29 to assess the situation there first hand. Christian Democratic faction deputy head Nikoloz Laliashvili said that the group will start with Pankisi, and then methodically check any district Russian officials subsequently claim terrorists are using as a base.

Georgian Counterterrorism Center head Zurab Maisuradze told the Confidence Group on October 28 that there are no "terrorists" on Georgian territory. He said any claims to the contrary are "lies." Border police chief Zaza Gogava similarly said that not a single illegal border crossing between Georgia and Russia has been registered this year.

But Georgian intelligence service head Gela Bezhuashvili nonetheless warned on October 28 that there are grounds to suspect that Russia may be preparing "provocations" on its borders with Georgia, which the Georgian authorities will seek to avert. Georgian media had earlier published unsubstantiated reports that Russia plans to infiltrate fighters into Georgia, where they would then carry out acts of terrorism.

Alternatively, Russia would adduce the presence of those militants on Georgian territory as evidence that the Georgian leadership maintains links with Al-Qaeda. But security expert Irakli Sesiashvili pointed out that the only mountain paths by which fighters could enter Pankisi from Russia are already under several meters of snow.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.